Friday, March 20, 2020

It's So Quiet Here

It's eerie to wake up on a school day and not go in. It's 7:17 AM as I write this, and even my dog is sleeping. One of the great things about being a dog when I'm home is you get to sleep as late as you want. Usually, around 5:15 AM, I'm cutting up Freshpet, Toby smells it, and comes running downstairs as though the world were on fire.

Quiet though it is, perhaps the world is on fire. I stopped at a little soup shop on the way home and asked the guy at the counter why they didn't have the spicy chili I liked this week. Half the shop was roped off since it was now only a takeout place. He told me I wouldn't be seeing it for at least two weeks as he was closing the store. Made me think twice about buying, but I bought some chicken soup anyway.

I drove home yesterday and it was as though there were no school. In a way, there wasn't. There were no students in attendance. Now there are certain advantages of students being out. The building is certainly cleaner. Also, when you're walking the halls between periods 5 and 6 you don't have to push, shove, jostle, or be pushed, shoved or jostled. You get to spend more time with your colleagues, and mine are the best anywhere.

On the other hand, it's like the beating heart has been ripped from the building. I'm very lucky this year, in that there are too many beginners to offer only one class. Also, since the NYSESLAT exam that rates student ability is such crap, half or more of the beginners are in advanced classes. So I find myself with classes of about 16-20. It's lovely, actually. I've gotten to know these kids better than I usually do. Every single one of them can have my attention pretty much whenever they wish. I look forward to seeing them next week, and I'm frantically trying to sign them up even as my school hasn't bothered to get half of them the email addresses they need to do so.

I'm not tech-phobic, but a lot of people are. It's a big ask to place them in a situation in which they're dependent on computers. While I'm up for whatever, I'm not nearly as saavy as some of my younger colleagues. I didn't realize until this week how useful Google Classroom could be, and I've probably made a whole lot of paper copies I didn't need to. I had no idea Skedula had an email function until last night, when a young colleague showed me, and I found messages students had written me beginning two years ago.

I've decided to be aggressive signing up students, so I used the Skedula function to get them to sign up for my online classes. I copied their parents, but alas, few of them were signed up. I'm particularly concerned about my weakest class, which thus far has only three students. While large class sizes are pretty bad, a class of three in which only one is thus far verbal in English will be an excruciating thing to manage, especially online.

I know this is going to be tough. I've used Zoom five times this week, and three of the five times it's crashed. With the added burden of a city school system, I'm less than confident it will work. I'm even less confident I'll know how to handle this. I'm a new teacher again. Most of the things I do in the classroom cannot be replicated online. My strategy will be to overplan, have alternate activities, and hope for the best. It will be odd to assign writing exercises and not be able to walk around and help.

But everything is odd these days. How about you? How are you faring in the Time of the Virus?
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