Thursday, April 30, 2020

With Safety a Priority, What Will Teaching Look Like?

Mulgrew has a piece in the Daily News that discusses safeguards for returning to work. He's spoken about pretty much all these things at various meetings I've attended.

Of course testing for corona virus is little more than a cruel joke these days. I know someone whose partner, a nurse, suffered for two weeks with fever, and was denied pay for the days she was out. She tried to take vacation days and they denied her. She tested positive but her partner, who was no longer symptomatic, couldn't get tested at all. (I'm now hearing 1199 will get her paid somehow.)

We now know well we should've closed the schools sooner, and de Blasio's failure to do so will be his enduring legacy. And of course there will be obstacles, including the ridiculous class sizes we've been unable to shake for the last half century. Mulgrew suggests possible workarounds, like end to end scheduling, or every other day attendance. These might work, but in severely overcrowded schools (like mine) additional steps may be necessary.

Elsewhere, national teacher unions are saying it must be safe or forget it, there will be strikes and job actions. There should be. I went until the bitter end last time, and I think there were two factors that went into that--I tend to be unreasonably stubborn sometimes, and I honestly did not understand just how risky that was. After weeks of news that focuses on almost nothing but the virus, I see things differently. I'm not gonna be a hero anymore.

But let's say we work it out satisfactorily and go back. Let's say we have fewer students in classrooms and manage adequate social distancing by hook or crook (or more likely by miracle). One of the things that's really frustrated me with remote learning is my absolute inability to see what the hell it is my students are doing. I'm accustomed to walking around the classroom and checking on them individually. I'm accustomed to giving tips as to how to do things better, or compliments on great work.

Well guess what? If we're social distancing, that will still not be possible. Perhaps in some computer rooms in which there are cameras teachers can check desk to desk and send messages to individual students, but that's far from standard. Tbere are only a handful of such rooms in my building, and they're occupied by research and computer classes. I guess I could us a telescope, or perhaps a multi-directional periscope, but even in that unlikely circumstance, how would I communicate with the kids? Screaming across the room? I guess it beats nothing.

And let's say that Governor Cuomo manages to pull the broomstick out of his ass and cancels APPR this year. What about next year? Let's say we're in our properly socially-distanced classes with 11 or 12 students at a time. I've taught some very small classes in college, and it's entirely possible that you draw a group of shy students who are disinclined to participate. What's Charlotte Danielson going to say about that? They're all shy, so you must suck.

Let's disregard that, and say your students are fine. Let's say you get a mix of introverts and extroverts. Let's say you get an entire group of eager participants, in fact. There you are. They can't wait to answer your questions. They jump and scream, "Ooh, ooh, ooh," to answer each and every question that emanates from your brilliant mind. So maybe Charlotte is not set to ruin your life at that particular moment.

But what about the all-important and indispensable groupwork? Every principal will tell you that's the only way students learn because of course no one listens to you at all, and if you give them information rather than having them discover it, it's "chalk and talk" and you suck. But you can't put them in groups because that would be risking their health. In fact, you can't even do pairwork, which I favor because it maximizes language use.

So when Boy Wonder comes into your classroom with his iPad---wait a minute--is there even room for Boy Wonder to safely fit? In crisis mode, with space at a premium, are we going to place even one fewer student in a classroom so Boy Wonder can squeeze his fat ass through the door? Or will he have to wait until someone is absent?

Let's say he gets in one way or another. How do you do Danielson under circumstances in which groupwork is hazardous to everyone's health? Does anyone actually believe the DOE has given a moment's consideration to this? They think their role is telling us what to do.  Even as we're engaged in remote learning, which none of them have ever even tried, they see their role as sitting on top of Mount Olympus and issuing edicts to us mere mortals.

Nonetheless, these are new times. There will be new situations, and I'm sure there are a whole lot of things I haven't considered. But I'm adjusting my practice, and Boy Wonder is going to have to adjust his too. Me, I'd fire his ass to save money and improve the quality of life on earth. This notwithstanding,  his grotesque incompetence and indifference to human suffering hasn't been a problem for the DOE before, so I don't think it will be now either.

Who will end up figuring this out? We will. Will the DOE and the geniuses in Albany wait for us to do this before sending us back? Probably not. That's not their job.
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