At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, the COVID-19 pandemic had been in full force for a year and a half. Vaccine rates were up and both new cases and death rates were down. And everyone was tired of closures and social distancing and, you know, the effects of an international plague. People wanted to “get back to normal.”
My school, and many others, opened up fully in-person. But as cases started increasing again, teachers, parents, administrators, and pretty much everyone started noticing that something else wasn’t “normal.” Students didn’t enter their new courses with the same level of academic knowledge and skill that previous cohorts had. Their behavior was different. And their attitudes were different as well.
The phrase “learning loss” had been trickling through educational discourse all through the previous school year, particularly with regard to the disparity between students from wealthier families, who were more likely to have better access to resources for effective remote instruction and better support, and students from poorer families, who were less likely to have access to those same resources. Educational achievement has always correlated closely with wealth (or the lack of it), and think tanks and pundits were warning that the pandemic was likely to widen that gap.
After our schools closed mid-March because of the virus, one of the assignments that I gave my students was creating their own blogs. Even though participation was not required, many students chose to try it out. It was interesting to notice what was similar and what was different in the choices they made. And it helped me to stay in touch with them and see how they were doing when I couldn’t actually see them every day.
The assignment was very open-ended; I provided a link to an article that discussed different blogging platforms, but I allowed students to choose which ones they wanted to use. Likewise, while I gave a list of possible topics and encouraged them to write about their experiences during the closure, I didn’t assign specific topics. This gave students a lot of freedom, but also provided some challenges.
I try to remember to update the websites for each of the classes that I teach first thing each weekday. Even more than Google classroom, phone, or email, those sites are what I rely on to communicate with my students, because that way everyone gets the same information.
Also, they’re publicly accessible. If someone has to borrow a computer and can’t remember their password (or doesn’t want to use it on someone else’s device) they can still get to the site. Parents can view the site without having to be members.
And the edit icon was missing.
There is definitely a part of me that threw an internal temper tantrum when we were asked to develop strategies for online instruction. I already have a course outline, thankyouverymuch. I knew what we were doing before spring break (research) and had new ideas I wanted to try out for the unit.
Then the plan was to punt that until after spring break and drop the mini-unit on Machiavelli’s The Prince, as that would give us the time we’d need to focus on research before moving into the memoir.
And then we found out we wouldn’t be going back at all.
A syllabus is a challenging document to create. It’s hard to distill all the procedural information that students need and organize it into something that’s easy to understand. It seems like everything is important! But when I was given an English I class after teaching English II for awhile, I decided to try something different!
Social media is a very nearly unavoidable part of life for many of us. I keep in touch with family and friends via Facebook, and I’ve recently started using Twitter to connect with other teachers. Many teachers avoid connecting with students because they are worried about violating expectations for ethical professional behavior. However, the reasons to refuse students’ “friend” requests on social media are incredibly exaggerated. Involvement on social media should not be a concern for teachers who are otherwise capable of interacting with students in a professional manner.