2020 has been a year for the books.
In my district, we flipped to remote teaching at the high school level at the last minute, leaving us barely enough time to scrape together some lessons for the first week back to school, distance-learning style.
We were told that we had to teach from the building.
We were not given all of the necessary tools to do so. So, I went out and bought a second monitor from Goodwill, figured out how to install it by myself because the LRC director was too busy with textbook pick-up, met with my PLC, and promised myself that it would be okay.
Fast forward eight-ish weeks and it hasn’t been perfect…but it has been okay.
The problem is that last week our board voted to bring back the high school students in-person, scoring another blow to the increasingly fragile sense of with-it-ness teachers are clinging to.
We keep hearing that we are doing a good job. But it’s not good enough.
So, at the end of the quarter, in the midst of a pandemic that hasn’t gone away, I will join other teachers who are being asked to do too much, much more than we ever thought possible.
I will be teaching remote students AND in-person students at the same time. While wearing a mask.
Students will be hybrid, alpha-split. They will join the class remotely on their “off” day(s) and in-person on the other(s).
They’re calling this instructional model concurrent teaching.
I’m still reeling. This is not what’s best for kids (and definitely not what’s best for teachers who care about what’s best for kids).
Yet, I have to make it work, teaching content while reminding students not to remove, pull down, or chew on their masks, to remain seated for the full 70 minutes, to use the bathroom one-at-a-time since bathrooms will be closed during passing periods, taking attendance, responding to remote kids via Zoom, responding to emails, organizing breakout rooms, lesson planning, feedback, grading, data collection, PLC-ing, adapting activities for online, keeping Classroom organized and up-to-date with clear instructions, responding to parent concerns, attending meetings of various shapes and sizes, moving between classrooms, sanitizing my workspace and computer, eating lunch and planning from my car (yes, we were told to go to our cars), and the list goes on and on.
I have to play my part, yet the most troubling thing is that I’m not sure how to play my part. I mean, this is uncharted territory.
I’ve been cast as the lead actress, yet I have no lines. I must make them up as I go.
This will surely be my finest performance. Oscar-worthy, I’m sure.
Real Talk about Teaching in 2020
Okay, okay. #realtalk
I’m going to throw down some teacher truth here. I’m not going to sacrifice my health and well-being to try and maintain the same standards and practices as pre-Covid (or even the same standards and practices as post-Covid 100% distance learning), nor should you.
It’s just not sustainable (Thanks for that new teacherism, 2020.).
When I signed my teacher contract, I did not sign up for concurrent teaching. I did not sign up for working beyond contractual hours, sacrificing exercise, sleep, and personal leisure because students need to learn.
That’s a hard NO from me… come at me.
Right now, our administration says things like “we’re a family” and “we’ll work together to do what’s best for students” yada yada. We are told to “make time for self-care” and to not work beyond contractual hours.
At the same time, we are being asked to do more than ever before. So which one is it? Because you can’t have it both ways.
When I’m faced with the option of choosing between school and home, burnout and health, I’ll choose home and health 110% of the time. My real family is not my school family. They will forget about me in a hot minute if I ever leave.
Three Ideas for Concurrent Teaching
So, what to do?
I will be the best teacher I’m able to be.
I will focus on student-centered learning and provide a lot of flexibility and choice.
I will do what I can, but no more than I am able.
And I’m going to be okay with that.
Idea #1: Stay the Course
In the interest of teacher sanity (and because neither I nor my students will be walking around the classroom and functioning in small groups), I may follow this model and keep teaching the way I have been, as if students are still fully remote.
Students will all log-in through Zoom, and I will facilitate learning for all groups of students as I have been doing, using a variety of online tools, choice boards, digital notebooks, and teacher mini lessons.
This is the best way to ensure equity for all students, including those who are in-person, hybrid remote, and fully remote.
Idea #2: Playlist & Book Groups
I am also thinking about creating a master playlist for students to work through on their remote learning days. In this playlist will be resources and teacher-created videos to guide students as they pursue inquiry-based research and podcasting in the classroom.
This is, in essence, flipping the classroom, but on a grander scale.
Meanwhile, students will engage in classroom discussions, book clubs, assessments, and teacher/peer conferences when in-person.
The only roadblock I foresee with this model is with students who are absent (because we will no doubt have a lot of these) and miss their in-person day. There is also the complexity of needing to teach fully remote students who will never come in-person (yup, that’s a third group of students we are being asked to teach).
Idea #3: College Model
I may turn my classroom over to reading and discussion with portfolio-based grading. I know in my gut that simplification is needed. Let’s read some interesting articles, poems, and books. Let’s listen to podcasts and TED talks. Let’s learn to talk intelligently and in-depth about what we are reading. Let’s write about our ideas using analytical, argumentative, expository, and narrative modes. Let’s reflect on our growth over time and choose our best work to put in an end-of-semester portfolio.
So, those are my thoughts for now. We’re all writing the concurrent teaching script together, so hang in there and be kind to yourself above all else. Like it or not, we ARE teaching in unprecedented times. Let’s be flexible enough to teach and take care of ourselves in unprecedented ways, too.
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