Wednesday, September 16, 2020

De Blasio and Carranza Abandon the Hybrid Fantasy

For weeks I've been marveling that the two grown men who ran education in the country's largest school district accepted a plan that relied on teachers who simply do not exist. If you break a class into two to five sections, who teaches the students who aren't in the building on any given day? Yet Chancellor Carranza would get up in front of news cameras and claim everyone would receive synchronous instruction each and every day. 

They explained how the fantasy worked. You and I would teach chemistry. We'd coordinate lessons and each of us would teach 12 kids a day. The other students from our classes, all 44 of them, would be with a hybrid remote teacher, who'd magically recreate our lesson online. Also, there'd be some kind of virtual something specialist who'd write and provide the lessons. The problem, obvious to everyone but de Blasio and Carranza, was that we then needed somewhere between 1.5 and 2 teachers where we used to need only one.

They put forth solutions. Everyone from Tweed with a license would teach. Supervisors would teach. They'd hire thousands of substitutes. Imagine a substitute, hired out of nowhere, with no experience. There's a long and hallowed DOE tradition that the least qualified person gets the most difficult tasks. They can't learn and you can't teach, so we put you together. It's poetry, a thing of beauty.

So who was gonna get those remote classes of 44? Of course it would be the new sub. That's one reason I argued we'd be teaching chemistry. I've got over thirty years experience and I can't teach day one of chemistry. How is a newbie we just dragged off the street gonna do it? How will that guy teach Chinese? In fact, how will a person with no experience teach anything to an obscenely huge class, on a computer, with no training whatsoever?

These were just a few of the issues with which our visionary chancellor had to contend. He was all smiles right up until recently. He had ideas. A Queens high school was told to eliminate all comp time jobs and make every supervisor teach two classes. They were grappling at straws and embracing ridiculous, unworkable solutions. And it just hung there, until days before opening, we learned they'd abandoned it on Twitter, of all places.

 Now I'm not what you'd call an organizational genius by any measure. But I knew the moment I saw this plan that it was unworkable. Even before I heard the details and fancy names for teacher roles I knew there were simply not enough of us to carry it off. In a way, it sounded good. Maybe we'd finally have enough teachers to reduce class sizes. Yet, even with a potential 50-100% increase in the number of teachers, this plan managed to make things even worse. It allowed for classes so huge, so inconsistent, that I wasn't sure the hybrid remote person could even learn student names, let alone substantively help them.

This plan was flawed and doomed from the start. Yet principals all over the city have spent months planning for it, flailing around in desperation to meet requirements that were simply impossible. Imagine if they'd spent that time prepping for a full remote return, and supporting the needs of a remote system instead of running around like headless chickens screaming, "How the hell are we gonna do this?"

Imagine, then, teaching your 12 students each day and being responsible for putting up some sort of asynchronous something or other for the ones who happen to be home that day. Imagine also having to grade whatever it was you slapped on the net each day. How thorough will it be? How thorough can it be?

Now imagine you're a parent, faced with sending your kid in a day or two each week, and hoping for the best on other days. Imagine your neighbor says, "Hey, my kid has full remote, and she's in class with a real teacher every day." It won't be a great challenge for you to determine that the remote program is better than the live program, especially when your kid comes home traumatized from being masked, socially distanced, and unable to socialize with either teachers or peers. An immediate surge in remote learning may be the only good thing that comes from this.

This city has indulged in some of the most irresponsible and idiotic planning I've been witness to in all my decades on earth. It rivals President Trump's national COVID plan, the one that doesn't exist. It's inconceivable to me that someone collected millions for devising this nonsensical plan, but clearly I'm in the wrong business. I have to meet my students in about ten minutes. While I don't regret that, I'm picturing the people who planned this sitting on beaches in Aruba, drinking mimosas and laughing at all of us crawling through the wreckage they've left us.

Alas, I don't drink on school days. But maybe I should. While I wouldn't understand things any better, at least I wouldn't fret over them so much. 

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