Wednesday, September 09, 2020

A Hybrid that Works

I was speaking with someone from a Long Island district who described to me what they're doing in his town. Things are easier there, evidently, since they're fairly well to do and they haven't overcrowded the schools to some obscene level. I'm pretty familiar with overcrowding. Our school is at 220% capacity, and the most we can have most students report is once a week.

In the Long Island district, students come in every other day. Teachers give lessons and they are broadcast in real time. Half the students are in the classroom and half are home. Only the students in the classroom on any given day are allowed to ask questions or interact with the teacher. Now I'm not about to jump up and down and declare this is a wonderful system. There are clearly flaws.

The only thing I'll say about it is it's actually practical. You can do it. In that respect, it's superior to the models the DOE has designed. In fact, though we're only two weeks away from students coming in, the DOE is still looking for teachers to cover these programs. It's kind of incredible that the DOE would pay some firm millions to come up with a program that required who knows how many new teachers to make it happen. There are 80,000 teachers around. Why don't they ask us before paying all that cash?

As if that's not enough, the fact is the mayor is looking at the possibility of firing 23,000 city employees, including 9,000 teachers. Why would anyone contemplating layoffs go on a hiring spree? And why would that someone, who's known of this possibility for months, accept a program that requires thousands of new teachers? Your guess is as good as mine.

I know someone who was recently excessed. This person tells me that the same school is now looking for new teachers. How do you excess experienced teachers and then go off looking for subs with no experience? Why couldn't you just use the teacher rather than excess her? Not only that, but even if you excess no one, how can school budgets, especially with cuts in the possible future, handle hiring extra people?

Look, I'm not advocating hybrids of any sort. However, if you're going to plan one, why would you plan one with variables well beyond your control? Why would you set it up to rely on people who don't even exist? And why would you pay a company to provide you with such a plan? I'd pay a company to not provide me with such a plan. 

I'm not familiar with the plan in my home district, being largely focused on NYC. But yesterday I was walking my dog and saw some parents at a bus stop. They told me their kids were going in every other day. Probably we're on the same system I described. What are the down sides?

One bad thing is if you're in the homebound group, you have to sit and watch. You can't ask questions. While this beats the Moskowitz Academy plan, which sounds more like prison than school, I wouldn't want to attend a class where I couldn't ask questions. I wouldn't want my kid, or yours, or anyone's in that class either.

The other bad thing is, if you're in the live classroom, you have to sit socially distanced and masked. This sounds awful to me. Kids are very social and we're dumping them into situations where they can't be. It's unnatural. We're also making teachers bad guys by making them enforce distancing and lack of real exchange. This goes against every instinct I have as a teacher.

On the brighter side, the Long Island system actually functions. I'd say the very best option, until we can crawl out of the COVID, is 100% remote instruction, a whole lot looser than the Moskowitz plan. Still, that's far from ideal. 

We're in a situation where there are simply no good choices. We have to sift through and try to find the least bad one. I really hope we get some better choices, and soon. I didn't sign up for this. None of us did.

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