Monday, July 05, 2021

Zoom Classes on Snow Days

Yes, it sucks that we will likely teach a Zoom class on our next snow day. That's not what snow days are for, and everyone knows that. Also, having taught on Zoom for over a year now, I cannot find adequate words to describe just how much I hate it. The biggest problem, of course, is students placing anime cat pictures up while going back to bed, playing video games, watching Netflix, or doing whatever it is they do while you're up there explaining the Pythagorian Theorem, or some other students deem less  important than sleep. 

On the bright side, though, for those crying that we're depriving students of snow days, a good percentage of students on Zoom do exactly what they'd do on snow days--nothing, something, or anything. And as long as students are allowed to put up cat pictures rather than their smiling faces, that will remain the case. Now there are a lot of people who say, well, students have a right to privacy, and we can't see their homes. Actually it's pretty easy to put up a background photo and preclude that. And if there really were an issue, any kid in actual attendance could talk to me and I'd accommodate it. 

But in this real world, I find that a good portion of my students are not really there. This is really frustrating to me, and caused me a level of burnout that I've never experienced in a real classroom setting. I actually like my job. I like interacting with students and I like supporting them while they acquire English. Zoom classes are me going through the motions while not really knowing what's going on with the kids.

In a regular classroom setting, I'd walk around and see student work. I'd make suggestions on improving it, and give support to those doing a good job. In a Zoom class, I'm the teacher who sits on my ass in front of the room and hopes for the best. Sure, I can ask questions. In fact, I can ask them repeatedly, and follow up with, "Are you there?"

Sometimes other students will text their friends and I'll get excuses via direct message in the chat. Oh, I'm sorry, I was very sick and in the bathroom. Oh, excuse me, my aunt was very sick and I had to help her. Sometimes I get questions. "What page are you on?" This is a very interesting question, particularly 20 minutes into the class. That student has just told me he hasn't been paying attention since the class started, and that he was prepared to not pay attention for the entire class. And there I went and ruined it by asking him a question. Who the hell do I think I am anyway?

Honestly, if my kid were asked to do a zoom class on a snow day, I'd tell her to forget it. Stay in bed. Watch Netflix. Go find a sled and go down a hill. I'll bet a whole lot of parents will do the same. And if I get stuck teaching on a snow day, I'll find some activity that is not going to be tested or of vital importance. We'll have a discussion, and if anyone shows up, maybe it will be interesting. Stranger things have happened.

Now here is the positive side of snow days for NYC teachers--if we do get stuck with a mayor like Adams or Garcia, or anyone else in the pocket of the charter vultures, it's a little less likely we will have to drive in under dangerous conditions. I remember Klein, who clearly hated us, public schools and everything about them, waiting until 5 AM to announce whether or not schools were closed. I remember driving halfway in only to hear on the radio that someone had decided to close the schools. I can remember spending four hours in heavy traffic driving 23 miles to my home.

So perhaps we'll have no more of that. I miss snow days, but not enough that I'd want to give up breaks or vacation days to make up for them. Next year, with only 180 actual school days, that would be the case. So while I'm not precisely jumping up and down about this possibility, it seems preferable to any alternative I can see, especially this year.

Of course if you've got a better idea, the comment section is now officially open.

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