Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Hybrid Model--Essential Work or Political Hackery?

I’m vain. I think my subject, English as a new language, is the most important my students have. As such, I want them to understand structure. Teaching grammar, though, bores my kids to death. I have to find a better way.

One of the things that makes me crazy its the use of the present tense. When one of my students says, “She go to the store,” it makes me want to jump out a window. I’ll feign a heart attack or something to draw attention to my displeasure. I look for novel ways to practice this structure. One activity is a game that replicates an old TV show called What’s My Line. Students pretend to have one job or another, and we practice asking questions to figure out what it is.

Do you work in an office?
Do you need any special diplomas?
Do you work outside?

These are all good questions. I point out others that might guide their yes/ not questions toward an educated guess:

Who works in an office?
Who needs a diploma?

There’s one question I get that I object to, though.

Is your job important?

Grammar isn’t everything. I try to show students that all jobs are important. When I was their age, I worked as a dishwasher. I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty essential to have my dish washed before I eat off it. I’d argue, in fact, that some of the jobs that have the most prestige are ones we’d miss least.

For example, as a teacher, don’t show up to work, and there will be a direct effect on students. If the chancellor takes a sick day, they won’t notice the difference. While every job is important, it’s often those with the least prestige that affect us the most. Who should spend a week in Tahiti right now—your lawyer or the guy who collects your garbage?

We talk a lot about who essential workers are. Are teachers essential workers? Perhaps not in the sense of how it’s generally used, but education is indispensable. We didn’t just throw up our hands and give up last March, and we need to figure out the best way to deliver instruction in September.

There were a lot of things we could’ve done better. For example, had the mayor closed the schools when Broadway went dark, we could’ve spent a week or two preparing for remote instruction (and spread less disease). Instead, we  had three days in which we were supposed to be trained by administrators who’d never tried remote learning before. They did exactly as well as expected.

We now have tens of thousands of teachers with experience in remote learning. Some are better than others. I’m in the middle somewhere. A first-year teacher I know is much better at it. He knows how to give assessments via Google Classroom, and how to break students into groups on Zoom. In fact, there are programs that specifically monitor testing. Colleges use them, but I’ve thus far heard nothing about DOE picking them up.

Meanwhile, the city is prepping for “hybrid” learning, some online and some in person. Basically, you get in person instruction somewhere between 20 and 50% of the time, depending on how overcrowded your school happens to be. I have no idea how that’s remotely equitable, but I don’t work at Tweed. Doubtless someone over there will poop out an impressive-sounding rationale.

Even when they do, there are bigger problems. If teachers serve students on an alternating basis, who serves them on their off days? Also, how exactly do they expect classroom routine to be productive with everyone social distanced and masked? There’s no group work, no pair work, and the teacher can’t even approach the students to check their work.

As it happens, they could do all those things remotely.

It behooves us to give our students the best instruction we can. With this virus threatening their very survival, not to mention that of their families, it’s very hard to see how a hybrid model has advantages over a remote model.

If anyone without a MAGA agenda can argue otherwise, I'm all ears.
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