From @Bonnie, High School Math Teacher in Southern California.
COVID-19 shouldn’t have been a surprise after years of scientists warning the world. But unfortunately, much of the world ignored them. Being a science nerd, I always had a feeling this was imminent, but not during my lifetime. I am saddened by all the deaths and families who are forever affected by this. For me, being single and no family obligations, this came as a blessing in disguise.
I was really struggling with my work environment at school. The only reason I would go to school was for my kids. I interacted the least amount possible with my co-workers. And when I did, I had to put on a face. So being quarantined was just what I needed mentally. I was physically separated from what was causing me so much stress.
During the past couple of months, I have worked through a variety of different challenges and come to peace with them. I am the consummate introvert, so being at home is like hitting the jackpot. I am enjoying time working in my garden and spending lots of time with my dogs (although they would probably share that it’s too much time). I really like the flexible schedule. Although, I am sure that I am unique in this situation.
My district made the decision that all middle and high school students would receive credit for the semester, no matter the grade they had last. All work was optional and was not to be graded. At first, I was shocked and dismayed. But after further thought, because the vast majority of students come from a highly marginalized and vulnerable background, giving them this was a good decision. But I am guessing at a couple of the other high schools where families are better off socioeconomically, parents and kids were not so happy. This was a decision in retrospect that I came to agree with.
However, this decision came roughly a month into our school closure. So before that I thought about my students and what was realistic. I sent kids a survey to see who was interested in improving their grade. And then based on that, I vetted each one to see if they truly were willing to put in the time and work; and were able to. That worked really well, as then I was able to effectively help about 17 kids. The rest I gave them work asynchronously and wasn’t stressed if they did it or not. But calling home multiple times was extremely time consuming and exhausting; not to mention the language barriers. I definitely couldn’t have done this if I were still teaching face to face with one 57 minute prep period each day.
61 out of 119 students responded to a survey to gauge how effective they felt distance learning was. It was 100% anonymous. I was pleasantly surprised at how many like the “Attendance/Check In.” Unfortunately, I started that a month into the closure. But, for next year, I will be starting that right away. That piece of data proves to me that relationships are so important. Even though I knew every single one of my students inside out, distance learning means I needed to start all over. And it was easy to do, I just posted a “Question” on Google Classroom. I did this twice each week and gave them about a day to complete. I was easily able to respond back to all of them. (I type faster than I write, and my writing is really atrocious.)
They were questions like: