I jinxed the 2019-2020 school year. For myself. For my students. For you. For your students. For everyone.
Just kidding. While it’s intoxicating to believe I possess such powers, I know it’s due to the upending coronavirus pandemic.
But why make this claim? To build an argument against myself, I’ll examine my posts since the end of last school year (although not in chronological order).
- Last month I wrote about the importance of student attendance, how students need to be physically present at school and miss no more than 10 days a year. Now, just a few weeks later, nobody has to physically attend school. Even though students are distance learning, it’s not the same as walking into a tangible building bustling with students, teachers, routine, and structure. My heart breaks because I miss seeing students’ faces every day and helping them grow, but it also breaks my heart because they miss going to school too.
- At the end of last school year, I penned a post discussing how my classroom was ditching technology and picking up paper and pen instead, helping with retention and engagement and reducing digital distractions. Oh, how the copy machine and I reacquainted ourselves for three grading periods! Now, because of distance learning, everything is digital. EVERYTHING. Ugh. (I even miss the cantankerous copy machine in the teacher’s lounge. I bet she’s lonely.) Can you imagine being a teenager, having your entire school year reduced to a screen, and completing work daily on a device that screams at you to play games or watch Kylie Jenner makeup tutorials on Youtube instead of completing assignments? It’s a wonder students get anything done. Let’s not forget they’ve got their phone beside them, and they’re getting distracted by SnapChats, TikToks, and text messages that wouldn’t even be a distraction if they were sitting in a classroom. I could have my students read a novel for the rest of the year, but I don’t want to have them read a 330-page book on a screen. I actually had a student tell me that they missed doing work and reading things on paper. Insert crying face emoji here. And the sad thing is, I don’t know if I’ll have the guts to go back to paper once all of this, gestures vaguely with her hands, is over. The thought of physically collecting paper from 95 different kids and handling it without touching my face while grading scares the shit out of me. Middle schoolers suck at washing their hands and aren’t well known for fantastic hygiene practices in general. (I love them despite their sketchy hygiene.)
- I also wrote a post about late work policies and changed mine considerably. I went from accepting late test grade assignments at a 10 point deduction and late participation work at half credit to handing out one late pass for test grade assignments for full credit and two late homework passes for full credit. Once those passes were used, grades went in as zeros unless students were in danger of failing. Now with distance learning, I’ve got to accept all late work for full credit, and while I understand this policy’s leniency and necessity, it nevertheless irks me. I’m also expected to post answers to assignments, so I’ve got kids who wait until after the answers are posted to complete the assignments. Do they really deserve full credit? Particularly if it’s just a participation grade? Furthermore, the rigor and frequency of my assignments have decreased because we were told to give students about a third of what we would normally teach and not make them too hard otherwise students wouldn’t complete assignments. Lots of the grades I’m giving, even for test grade assignments, are hey-do-this-work-and-follow-the-directions assessments. I have a hard time giving students full credit on glorified completion grades that they’ve turned in late. Now don’t get me wrong, I know some students are watching their siblings, might not be living at home, have a parent who is sick, etc., and I am completely sympathetic to those students, but there are some who are abusing the system. I caught a lot of pushback from parents for giving a participation grade for just checking into Google Classroom daily (could there be an easier assignment to get credit for????) and ended up deleting it because dealing with the fallout for two days left me sleepless and a tad indignant. Does everyone deserve an A in an honors class because of this crappy situation? The grades don’t even count this last quarter. Ugh. So why do I even care so much? Also, don’t even get me started on the obvious cheating on true tests taken at home.
- I also wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with Romeo and Juliet, and I was still in the middle of teaching it when school was suddenly shuttered. The kids finished reading it on their own because I couldn’t have them NOT finish reading it. They didn’t get to choose and scene and act it out, which is one of my favorite activities of the year. I wanted to have them perform outside this year because Shakespeare’s plays were performed outside too.
- And last, but not least, I wrote something about how grading at home never works, and now it’s the ONLY option. Ack.
So see, my words have come back and bitten me in the booty!
Distance learning has been an adjustment and has humbled me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a perfect teacher. I am a reflective practitioner, and this situation has turned my entire profession on its head. Maybe I needed to be knocked back a few notches because I’d forgotten, albeit momentarily, that teaching is NEVER predictable, but this predicament is unprecedented. We all need to cut ourselves some slack.
Thanks for letting me vent my uglies. I cannot wait to walk back into my classroom in August.
(Gosh, I hope that doesn’t come back and bite me in the booty too. Let’s think happy thoughts that schools will be open in August.)