Tuesday, September 08, 2020

First Day Back--Fishbowl Teaching

This is so odd. Full disclosure--I have an accommodation and am at home today. I've been at meetings and heard about our school plan. We are lucky in that we aren't using one of the chancellor's insane plans that required 50-100% extra teachers. I'm grateful for that.

But on this first day back, I'm not back. I feel really kind of left out. This bodes ill for my retirement, because I'm not even retired. I attended our BRT meeting virtually while everyone else was in the library. Fortunately, I have a rep in the building who I trust to attend future meetings and keep me in the loop.

Nonetheless, I was the only remote presence in that meeting. Everyone else was in the library. I felt like Klaus the fish in American Dad. I mean, I'm here, but I can't really go anywhere. I was the only person there virtually and not in person.

Now it's not like I'm not doing anything. I'm slammed with email, and I'm able to either answer or find answers to questions. But this is really bizarre. And that's only from the viewpoint of me as chapter leader.

As a teacher, it's going to be even odder. While last year was a shock to the system, it kind of took place with people I knew. That is, when I finally met my classes, I had already known them for over six months. I knew all their names and I knew a little something about each and every one of them. I knew who could and could not take a joke, as well as throw one right back in my face. I knew who was shy and who was outspoken.

I'm not sure I can know students remotely the way I know them in person. I can't just drag students out into the hall and say please do this, or don't do that, or why are you falling asleep, or whatever. I wonder if I'll be able to detect their personalities online. Some students have big personalities that you can't miss under any circumstance.

On the other hand, I work exclusively with students from other countries. Many have been trained almost since birth that the teacher is the authority and you are nobody and therefore you should Keep Your Mouth Shut under any and all circumstances. I usually work through October or November trying to open up these kids. They are my biggest and most enduring challenge. 

I have no idea how I, a fish from American Dad, am going to get through to those kids. My principal, in response to the question how the hell are we gonna do this, says, we'll do the best we can. Well, I'll do that.

I'm just going to add that, while I feel odd not being in the building, I don't believe that in person learning, the way the city has it laid out, would be a significant advantage over remote learning. I keep seeing pictures of children, socially distanced and masked, in miserable school settings. I'd actually prefer to do this remotely. At least they can see my face.

For me, though, and doubtless for everyone else, this is simply bizarre. I can't imagine things settling down any time soon. When I was in high school, I was a voracious reader of science fiction novels.

Now, finally, I'm living in one.

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