(a pondering about work and work-from-home in The Great Pause of 2020)
So, yeah, I didn’t blog all April. In fact, I haven’t even thought about my blog since the last post in March. Right after that, COVID-19 upended my routines as I’m sure it did for many of you. Buffer reminded me I was out of posts. LOL
Right after my last post was supposed to be when I queued up a bunch more writing. Because it was going to be Spring Break. However, what was suppose to be a time away from my teaching work for mental and physical rejuvenation became a sleepless time of sit-by-the-radio/TV and answering district and school phone calls every other day as they scrambled to figure out whether we’d be continuing school, how if so, and when exactly that alternative plan would begin.
So, the week of March 23 all teachers met remotely in teams, got up and running with our district’s learning management software if we weren’t already using it (I was, but not full time). And we converted interactive small-group lessons into individual self-paced modules. Then we had to roll it out beginning March 30. While other states just “called the ball” and ended their school years “at three-quarters”, Florida where 40% even in the urban areas don’t have at-home internet, had decided that Distance Learning was going forward.
I’ve still not had about half a dozen of my students log in ONCE in 4 weeks. We were told to grade students on standards-based learning. I just issued progress reports. There was a rumbling in the union that we all knew we were essentially “grading the level of privilege” of the child. All school year they told teachers “don’t give homework on the computer because not everyone has internet.”
Now we are required to mail to students’ homes paper packets we printed and paid for postage ourselves, and track kids “attendance” daily — gotta have those attendance numbers for the public education state and federal laws. If a kid logged in once, maybe completed a “bell work” assignment, they got credit for attending every day that week. Call home if you don’t see a kid logging in at least once. Document, document. Oh, and keep a detailed log of your every interaction with a child, parent, or colleague. We were required to have planning meetings and send reports to our reporting administrator every week. Then we also were required to have check-ins weekly with the entire admin team, by grade level (I teach 6th) also once a week.
We are not required, thank goodness, to hold live classes, but we were required to establish “office hours” to meet students online should they need to ask for help while working on assignments. That hasn’t been so bad. But the stress of figuring out when and how long to be available to the most students had made me work 10 hour days… first thing in the morning, around 9 I support about 1/4 of my students. Around 11 when I’m starving for lunch, another 1/4 come on. The rest show up after dinner, around 6 pm.
And then there’s the email from a parent who says that their kid will be on at 10, or 3, and “just needs a little of your time” — and two hours later you’ve walked them remotely through three assignments. After having spent 25 minutes helping them troubleshoot THEIR laptop/computer because they can’t hear you speak, or see your screen you’ve shared to show them the step-by-step. Or, if they need to share THEIR screen. O.M.G.
I believe I already mentioned grading? Yeah. So after I finish with the kids — or in between kids — I open the “speed” grader to review turned-in assignments. I teach English language arts, so there’s lots of writing to evaluate as the students try to communicate their ideas. Now, when they hand-wrote, I was interpreting handwriting, but now it’s just the same things I was evaluating before: half-formed sentences, run-ons, misspellings (“machur”) what the kid meant to communicate so I can give feedback that will actually teach them. This is actually the part of the job I’m used to. It’s just become “technologized” but it is still HOURS of work.
That’s become my new normal. But then I get a kick in the teeth. I’ve not been reappointed to teach next school year. I have 4 weeks to continue working with these children and in this situation, but then I’m out of work, no health insurance, no paycheck. And the virus is likely going to be going through its 2nd surge right about then.
Yeah, this is my thoughts on May Day. MAY Day! MAY-FUCKING-DAY! Help me keep my sanity, please!
Oh, and if you could spare a few positive thoughts, my brother and his wife, who both work in healthcare, contracted COVID-19 this past week. My brother is slowly recovering; his wife has been put on a ventilator.