Sunday, July 12, 2020

Be concerned, be smart, be safe. The 2020-2021 school year will be online.

Lots of others have written on this topic and I really have little to add, though I will add more.

Dr. Kylene Beers, a renowned educator, wrote this in her blog post: "EASIER IS NOT SAFELY. FASTER IS NOT SAFELY."

My colleague Tracy Antonioli wrote this in her compellingly titled blog post, No One Wins, But No One Dies: What School Must Look Like in Fall of 2020: Schools cannot be re-opened safely.

Please note the word SAFELY

The classroom is only a place. It is not the imperative for learning. Educators are.

Tracy's solutions have merit and many of the districts with which I'm familiar are learning in this direction. Teachers won't be happy. Parents won't be happy. And a whole bunch of kids won't be happy, but the point is not your happiness. The point is safety: everyone's safety.

Someone from Fairfax County Public Schools wrote an extensive post about people's concerns regarding NOT going back to school. The post is making the rounds on Facebook with a bright yellow #302 box. LMK if you've not seen it. I won't share the whole thing here, but I will sum up some of the points he made that I've heard repeatedly.
  1. My kids want to go back to school. As he pointed out, maybe. They want, you want, we all want, what is familiar and comfortable. They want to see their friends; so do we. They want to hang out in the cafeteria with their friends. They want, you want, we all want whatever normal was for us before mid-March 2020.
  2. Kids are going to be left behind. Hello. The whole country has been left behind. Are you concerned they'll be behind some artificial measure of what any kid should know in a particular grade? Perhaps this is the most propitious time to re-examine what we think students really need to know and be able to do and that may have nothing to do with what standardized test results tell us.
  3. Classrooms are safe. Really? When was the last time you were in a classroom with 20+ kids of any age? Imagine being in a classroom with more than 20, let's say, 3rd graders, and expecting them to stay at some safe distance from each other when your classroom is already barely large enough for them, their stuff, and their desks. How are you going to make sure that the desks and chairs and every other surface is wiped down sufficiently whenever students leave the room? How are you going to make sure they do not share pencils, markers, crayons, erasers, binders, whatever? Let's look at middle and high school classrooms and the fact that students change classrooms. Unless we suggest that students stay in one room and teachers move from room to room. No matter what, ensuring safety of everyone will be a problem.
  4. Kids are less susceptible. Well, that seemed to be true, but now it seems not to be true. The fact is that we know considerably less about this virus than we need to know to a) keep people safe, b) keep people from dying, c) keep the virus from spreading, and d) find a workable vaccine.
I've seen Tracy's guidelines echoed elsewhere. It's all doable. Little of it is what anyone really wants. All of it is intended to keep everyone safe and still work towards providing students with opportunities for learning.
  • All instruction online. 
    • Lower your eyebrows and stifle that sigh. What we had to do in March was extraordinary and while some did it well, most educators felt like it was the worst experience ever in teaching. Kids thought they had an extended spring break and then an early summer break. But we know more now and we can be better prepared to make this accommodation and to make sure that students, all students have the technology resources they need.
    • We can make sure that teachers have the professional support they need to design solid lesson for online or even blended delivery because some schools are trying to figure out how they might have students on campus for at least two days a week. If I lived in a community in which there were few or no reported cases of COVD-19, I'd be tempted to go the partial in-school route. . . IF IT CAN BE DONE SAFELY.
    • Districts must invest in resources to enable teachers to provide instruction.
  • If students MUST be in a building for a whole host of reasons--no adult can be home with the children and no child care is available, students need particular services, etc.--the classrooms must be sanitized, there must be a schedule for repeated cleaning, everyone has to wear a mask, and there must be appropriate distancing and even partitions or some way to separate kids.
    • Parents have to take the responsibility to check temperatures every morning. EVERY morning. Any child with a fever stays home and stays home for a quarantine period.
    • Substitute teachers are already hard to find and will only be harder to find but because of this economy, it's possible there will be adults who will be willing and able to step in to provide various levels of care and support for students who must be in a school building. These folks are not teachers. They could be reading buddies, they could be tutors, they could be individuals who like to play games with kids and support their socialization and learning in various ways. They are not quite paraprofessionals, but they are more than babysitters.
Like others, I've been reading and re-reading about the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. It lasted over a year. There were three waves.

I've also been reading about the history of vaccines and why it takes so long to develop a vaccine. Apparently it can take up to 10 years to develop, test, and distribute a vaccine. 

Others suggest there is a remote possibility the virus could peak before a vaccine is found, as was the case for H1N1, but even those who say seem to think the possibility is very remote.

There are plenty of us who can help prepare teachers, prepare administrators, even prepare students. We can also help support teachers, administrators, and some of us can even support students throughout the school year.

I've started a Google Classroom with the intent of making it a sort of PLC. If you're interested, LMK and I'll send you the code after we "chat"--via email or a virtual call--about what you need so I can be sure those needs can be met.

I've started posting some videos on a YouTube channel, EduTechxplorer, though I'll also put them in the Classroom. The videos are to help you as you develop lessons for your online/remote/distance learning classroom.

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