Your classroom is the only level playing field.
…Now what? Thank you, COVID-19!
I said in a few faculty meetings, “Your classroom is the only level playing field. When they get home, the field begins to tilt. Be careful when you assign homework.” Honestly, I do not know how many thought about it beyond my words when they went about assigning homework, projects, research papers, etc. from that point.
We are now living a “new normal” now. It has now been about 4-5 weeks since we have been physically separated from our students. For many of us, it is creating a plethora of issues. I participated in Zoom/Twitter chat a couple of weekends ago when we discussed many of these issues. How do we maintain relationships? What is the best video app to use to reach my students? How do we assess? Should it be summative…formative? Do we have “office hours?” How do we fulfill my students’ IEPs? Should SEL be a priority?
I served in many different districts and campuses, either as a principal or superintendent. The demographics in each of these were unique. I often considered the kids in the “Economically disadvantaged” category since this group often caused me the most consternation. I often would use the example, “Emily Roberts goes home to two parents, each with two degrees, that has technology and internet, high expectations, and an excellent place to study. Then there is Joe Poverty, who may or may not have two parents, maybe not at home but job number two, with no technology, and little expectations. Oh, and maybe Joe has to care for his siblings when he arrives. Oh, and perhaps Joe arrives around 11:00 from a job he must have to contribute to supporting his family. Or maybe he is just arriving late from some extra-curricular activity. Is the same homework assignment fair or equitable?
So, when you are planning your lesson that you are going to present (or assign) today or this evening on your Zoom/Google Hangout video app, and you determine how your students are going to “turn in” their work in your Google classroom. How do you assure that all your students are on the same “playing field?” I just read on Facebook from Chromebook Classroom, “Online learning provides a tremendous amount of flexibility.” The last bullet said, “Hold everyone accountable to the objectives covered in the lesson.” Whoa!!! I say that even when all of your students have internet, devices, and time, there is still no level playing field. What is going on in the house at the time of your Zoom meeting, or whenever they are watching your lesson being taught? Are there other family members/students who “meet” at the same time? Could there be crying babies? What does their “classroom” look like when they are on your call/completing your assignment? What about their parents, who are now working from home, using the same wifi bandwidth that they need most of the day? Or maybe the house that has both parents working now outside of their home with only a babysitter or no adult supervision? Or maybe you are responsible for “homeschooling” your child(ren), and their teacher is facing the same issues. Do you consider students getting answers from their parents, peers, Google…?
I’m going to throw a kink in this blog and say that maybe worksheets/packets are the only things close to a level playing field! We all know (before this new normal) what we all thought about worksheets. Before you say, “No way, will I stoop to sending worksheets!” You are now even thinking, “Hal, how the heck do I even get worksheets to my students?” One district I know has packets available at 17 different locations that students can pick up packets. The packets have two weeks of work and can be turned in at the same location.
Neuroscience says that there is little to no learning when the brain is stressed. How much stress is each of your students under at the time of your “class” or the assignment that you give? Do you or can you know how stressed their young brains are? Oh, and how about the phrase we all love to use that goes something like this, “We must meet Maslow before we can address Bloom.?” How about the students that are on free/reduced breakfast/lunch that counted on their school for their meals? Or, both parents are medical professionals and your students are worried that one or both will contract COVID-19?
I understand that most of you reading this have thought about most of these issues. I know beyond a shadow of doubt that those who use Twitter or Facebook as a learning platform, are way ahead of me on all of these issues. But maybe you know of an educator that might learn or glean a little information from this blog. Will you pass it on to them? Obviously, this dried up superintendent does not have all the answers. But I think I have some decent questions that need a pretty good answer for your students.