Q: How do you feel about returning to in-person teaching? What are some concerns that you have?
A: I have mixed emotions, but overall I think it is a bad idea. On the one hand I miss my students, I miss teaching and all that goes along with having a classroom full of students. On the other hand, this summer I watched my wife suffer for three weeks with the virus and I have witnessed what it can do to someone who is healthy and in good shape. I don’t want to see anyone get the virus, especially since we have the means to teach with Canvas and Google Meets or Zoom.
Q: Do you feel that the discussed safety guidelines are appropriate? Are there any further precautions you think should be taken in order to make school as safe as possible?
A: I feel like the guidelines are appropriate, but I do not think the District has given enough information as to how that is going to look on a high school campus nor have they taken into account the human factor of 1500 students on campus with 120 staff members working to ensure the safety protocols are followed. Everyone wants things to go back to normal, I want things to go back to normal, but the safety measures that have been put in place are absolutely nowhere near normal and frankly seem pretty impossible to implement even with only half the students on campus at one time. This idea that school will open on October 13th and it will be like it was pre-Covid is just not reality. I know that everyone wants to come back and see their friends and be social, but the safety measures that must be put in place don’t allow for that. The protocols for return are going to be extremely regimented with systems put in place for students being admitted into and dismissed from class one by one, classes having to be dismissed in a staggered fashion so that only single file line of students spread six feet apart from each other won’t overcowd the hallways in buildings such as J and H, stairs designated for ascending and descending, students using the restrooms one at a time to avoid crowding in the restroom with a designated line outside with markers for students to stand on when they wait, and assigned locations and spaces for students to eat at lunch. This just isn’t going to be normal at all and the times that a student might think they will get to be with their friends is not part of the new reality.
And the protocols for what is going to occur in the actual classroom do not make sense either if one is putting instruction and learning as the top priority. Students will be seated in rows 6 feet apart, the teachers will be at their teacher desks with a clear plastic shield in front of them for which if a taller teacher stands up his or her head will no longer be protected by the shield. Teachers will not be able to pass out papers or collect papers. All of this so that we can teach a lesson once a week to our students? This plan to me just doesn’t make sense when right now I can teach my classes on Zoom or Google Meets five hours a week where everyone is safe and comfortable. So now we are going to switch it so we can all come to school and stand in lines and watch a teacher teach once a week from behind a plastic shield. I just don’t understand how this plan is good for student learning.
Q: In your opinion, what else needs to happen before we can return to in-person learning?
A: I’d like to see regular random testing of students and staff. Colleges and universities that are opening are doing so with regular and random testing of the students and staff at those schools in order to catch infections quickly and isolate those that are sick. I recently heard that only 20% of the colleges and universities in the United States are reopening (I can’t find the source) and the other 80% are opening with online only programs. College and university students are only a few years older than our high school students. I just don’t see how it makes sense to open our high schools if our colleges and universities in the state are not opening. If the Cal State System and the UC System are going 100% on line for the fall, why is it that we think high schools will be any different when we are talking about students just a few years younger? Little kids do not appear to be much at risk from complications of Covid, but high school students are more at risk. I just don’t understand why we are coming back on to campus for half of the instructional time when we could go 100% online and get all of the instructional time and keep students and staff safe.
Q: From an academic perspective, is online learning sufficient? Would there be a significant difference in the quality of education between the hybrid in-person learning and the current online learning format.
A: Is online learning sufficient compared to what we usually do on our campus, pre-COVID? No it isn’t. Is online learning sufficient compared to hybrid, absolutely! When we go to hybrid learning I will meet with all of my students on Monday via Google Meets and then I will see them for one block period during that week. There is no way for me to completely cover the AP European History curriculum or the AP Art History curriculum seeing my students half the time. But, these last three weeks of school have been a success meeting with my students on Google Meets. It has gone much better than I thought it would. I am meeting with my students for all five hours of instruction a week, we are covering the material, having great discussions, and we’ve even taken some quizzes and tests and things are going really well. Is it going as well as it would if we were in the classroom in a normal situation? No, but it’s going far better than it would if I were only seeing my students for one lesson a week. While I would prefer to be teaching in a normal pre-Covid type situation, I do believe I can teach both of my subjects well with 100% online much better than I can with the one block period a week that the hybrid schedule provides. I just don’t understand the thinking behind this plan at all. Does the hybrid plan get kids back at school? Yes it does, but is it the best plan for learning? Not even close! Throw in the health concerns on top of it and it is plain to see that hybrid provides half the instruction and greater risk to students and staff. How does that make sense when there is an alternative that provides more instructional time and less risk?
Q: Would students who choose to continue 100% online learning still have access to teachers for instruction, asking questions, and receiving help?
A: I’m not exactly sure of this. This would be a really good question of Dr. Mahindrakar and I am certain he would be willing to talk to you. Everything I’ve shared above I have said to him.
One more thing that I want to add…
I want my students to do well on their ACTs, their SATs, their AP Exams and I want them to be as competitive as possible for college and career. I think that happens with as much interaction with a teacher as possible and there just isn’t as much interaction with the hybrid model.