Day 76 of Isolation – end of the school year

Today was my (Barb’s) last unofficial day of work. I had my last virtual class meeting with my science students, my AVID students, and our last staff meeting. I also “attended” our last virtual staff happy hours in the early evening.

Tomorrow is my day to get grades turned in (done!) and close out our virtual/digital classrooms (done!) John’s grades were due today but has a staff meeting tomorrow morning. He is almost done!

We have had 11 weeks of virtual/distance/remote learning. My students missed more than a quarter of the year. Everything assigned to my students was optional “enrichment” activities for both our districts. We were also directed not to teach any new concepts and to limit their academic activity to no more than 2 hours per week per subject with a maximum of 12 hours expected per week for middle and high school students. Elementary students were limited to 2 hours per day with a 10 hour maximum per week. (This might have been a state directive.) While I understand this, it sure did make it difficult for educators.

Parents had to learn how to manage working at home or working outside the home with limited childcare as well as “homeschooling” their students with the uncertainty of the pandemic on the livelihood on their family.

Many teachers went overboard on assignments at the beginning and turned off the overstressed parents. Some parents just gave up and let their child do what ever they wanted to do academically, others “enforced” 2 hours per day of “academic activity”, and then some expected their child to do everything listed for the week from every teacher.

I worry about August when we will be requiring a minimum of 5 hours of work a week from students, either in class, at home, or a mix of both.

I will miss the virtual meetings with my students. They have shared so many small personal details of their lives, more so at the beginning of all this. Some have shared insightful realizations about how they learn and what they enjoy doing now that they have time to pursue these other interests. Surprisingly, they are wanting to limit screen time (phone and computer) and prefer playing video games on the television screen. Maybe it has something to do with the closeness of the screen to their face.

Goodbye 2019-2020 school year. May we NEVER have to have a school year like you again!

Day 70 of Isolation – Classroom Cleanup

School is almost out! Just one more week of “enrichment” lessons!

I went this morning to prep my room for summer. We were given a 4 hour window. I completed everything in 1 hour! I signed in at the office at 8:55 am and signed out at 9:58 am. I assume the 3 minutes was walking to and from my classroom.

I normally do everything the last day of school while my homeroom students are watching a movie while the 8th graders are having their promotion ceremony. Here’s most of what I accomplished in an hour.

  • Took down all my bulletin boards and stuff on the walls and put stuff into cabinet
  • Threw away graded papers that didn’t get handed back to students
  • Put all the recyclable bottles into the large trash bag for recycling. Moved them next door to the teacher who handles that for the department.
  • Defrosted my mini frig freezer (with a little help from my hair dryer!)
  • Put away all the pencil boxes and letter trays
  • Moved the butcher paper roll to the closet
  • Moved the printer paper and graph paper to the closet
  • Put the desk top stuff in the drawers.
  • Moved my teacher editions into the cupboard.
  • Brought home to recycle all the extra copies of assignments.
  • Brought home the stack of one-sided paper for use at home.
  • Put the DVD player into the closet.
  • Unplugged the TV and frig. Totally forgot to unplug my document reader and projector – oops!
  • Brought home my sweatshirt and coffee mug for cleaning.
  • Gathered up a few resources for reference for next year planning.

I’m sure I forgot something on this list! I am so glad I started decluttering the stuff in my classroom a few years ago. It gave me more space in my closet and cupboards so when I have to prep for the end of the year, it goes quickly and smoothly.

Grades were submitted this afternoon. It sure is easy when every student gets Credit/No Credit as a grade. Only 10 No Credit students! Not a single one of them did any of the “enrichment” activities to earn extra credit for their failing class grade.

I’ve also become very minimalistic in my class decor. Have you?

Day 69 of Isolation – Work Computer Cleanup

Today at my department meeting, we were reminded we have to go in tomorrow to clean up our room for the summer and turn in our keys. Hopefully that won’t take me more than an hour or so. I’ve decluttered plenty of stuff and have become very minimalist in my classroom decorations over the last couple of years.

John has to go to his school for end of the year cleanup next Thursday. He hopes it doesn’t take him long. Knowing my husband, he has way more stuff out than I do and it will take way longer than he thinks!

We were also reminded to make sure our “My Documents” items are moved to our Google Drive because the district is changing how our documents are stored and accessed. Anything on the district server is at risk of deletion.

So I spent the entire day (ok, I did have a Google Meets with my students and department, talked to Kiddo #2 for about 1.5 hours, fixed dinner, text with Sister-in-law) making sure everything was moved to my Google Drive.

On my school laptop, I have the virtual “My documents” which stores on the server, “Documents” which store on the computer hard drive, and Google Drive for my documents. They told us several years ago this would happen eventually – I guess eventually arrived! Most of my stuff is in Google Drive, but I am find some things that need to be moved/removed. How many years of sub plans should I keep? I really don’t think I need every sub plan I’ve written since 1997! These were the kinds of things still in “My Documents”.

Since I was moving files, I figured I would remove everything from the laptop hard drive and the virtual drive to my Google drive – finally put it all in one place. I cleaned out my recycle bin before I started just to see how much was “moved/removed” from the laptop folders.

How many items in my recycle bin when I finished?

16,163 files (25.6 GB) decluttered

How much is now in my Google Drive?

41.7 GB Unfortunately you can’t easily see how many files your drive has.

Guess I need to do some Google Drive cleaning next.

Days 67 and 68 of Isolation

Is this 10 week experiment of remote/distance learning just about finished?

I’ve seen some people posting on Facebook about their virtual classrooms. I “played” with Bitmoji and created a virtual classroom using Google Slides.

It took about 5 hours to make. I had to watch a couple YouTube tutorials, search for the stuff I wanted in the room, crop the images, find what I wanted to have the images link to, and make my Bitmoji. The Bitmoji wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be BUT I had to download the app and then install the extension onto my computer. My work computer wouldn’t allow me to add the extension, so then I had to transfer to my personal computer.

Here is what it looks like so far. I don’t have a link yet for the filing cabinet. The hope is to put the documents the students will need in a google drive folder that the students can access.

Now where do I put this virtual classroom? Do I start using Google Classroom? Do I make a Google Site for it? Do I embed it on the Haiku/PowerSchool module the district has us use? Suggestions from fellow teachers would be appreciated!

Days 53, 54, 55 of Isolation

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday nursing Kiddo #2 back to health.  She is starting to feel back to normal.

Thursday was a long work day for both of us.  These darn reports we have to complete are driving us crazy!  We both have to document weekly what each student is doing.  When you have 150+ students, this takes FOREVER!!  I think it is worse because the work is “optional” for the students, so they are very sporadic at completing assignments, and they will turn stuff in weeks after it was assigned.  You never know what they will complete and turn in to the wrong assignment link!  I’m also frustrated with the emails – they don’t use their school email account and don’t bother putting their name on the email.  Parents are just as bad “my son is telling me he did the work.”  Great!  Who is your son?

I received 2 deliveries today from both Kiddos.  Kiddo #1 is jealous of the gift Kiddo #2 got me.  Guess which one she really wants!!

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Day 41 and 42 of Isolation – teachers gotta work

Thursday and Friday’s have become major work days.  Between meetings with colleagues, students, grading, generating distant learning “optional” review lessons, and tallying which students submitted work or looked at your webpage for admin, and doing the write up admin wants, there is little time for anything else on these days.  The other days of the week are a little more relaxed with few meetings, etc.

I wish there was a way to encourage student learning when everything they do is optional.  I really wish the district hadn’t put that out there.  Of course, some teachers told their students about the optional status – what were they thinking?? Wouldn’t it be better for more of the students to stay engages intellectually?

John’s district is still having them do their official weekly PLC (professional learning community) meetings virtually and submit the meeting minutes.  Thankfully, my district said all of these type of meetings are cancelled and my union negotiated a weekly limit on meetings – I have never been so happy!  I’m on the District Science Committee as a curriculum writer and was having major anxiety that they were going to have us work on making distant learning modules for every one.  My school site has an awesome 7th grade science team.  We share all the time BUT making a few of us modify everything we’ve worked on over the years for distant learning would be unreasonable.  Again, thankfully, my district realized this is a unique situation that would need more time and thought to implement.

I’m assuming we are not going back on August 6th with normalcy.  I was pondering the 6 feet social distancing rule and the seating arrangement in my room.  That would allow me to have 9 students in the room at a time.  How would I sanitize desks during passing period?  What about lab equipment?  Goggles?  Pencil sharpener?   How do you do group work?  It would also prevent me from: wandering the aisles while they work; greeting them at the door; having “private” conversations with individual students; and working individually with them.  How will the district handle this??  WHO KNOWS!  Another reason I am so glad I’m not an administrator!

Have any teachers out there heard their district plans yet for reopening school?

And now a meme:  Only thing missing are face masks!!  Dated picture but …

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from https://me.me/i/social-distancing-at-school-1dd7a09ccdcd4683ada530fddf10f745

Days 35 & 36 of Isolation

Friday was another work day for both of us – virtual meetings continue.

Here is my virtual meeting rant:  Why do we need to keep having all these virtual meetings when email would work just fine?  And why are we encouraged to use and learn all the intricacies of Google Meet to only have admin now say we need to learn and use Zoom?  I found Zoom more complicated and annoying to use.  I’m going to continue to use Google Meet with my students.  If someone schedules a virtual meeting, I’ll use whatever they want.   Most people aren’t even showing their faces and have muted their microphone.  They aren’t really participating in the meeting in a meeting manner.

Here are my Zoom issues:  First, I click the link you give me.  Now I need to download the program to use it.  Then when that is finally done, I need wait for you to let me in.  Second, when I try to use a virtual background, all anyone sees is a weird pixelated image of me.  Third, WHAT THE HECK?  Let us use just one – first we are told not to use Zoom and then we are told to use it.  MAKE UP YOUR MIND!!!

After all the virtual meetings using two different platforms, Saturday was a napping, reading, visiting John’s mom day.

Days 33 & 34 of Isolation

Yesterday was a lazy, tv watching, napping day.  Today we have been “working” and having Google Meets/Zoom with our students and colleagues.  I’m about to have a virtual union meeting today and a virtual Happy Hour.  Thursday sure is a busy day!

John has to have “office hours” every day for one hour.  So far this week, he had 3 students “attend” on Monday, 0 on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 1 student today.  Now that the students know that not doing the work will not lower their grade, we’ve seen a decrease in participation.

I had 8 students “attend” my class this morning.  I’m only obligated to one day a week.  The only question one student had for me: “Do you think Carole Baskin killed her husband?”  Seriously, they then spent the next 10 minutes discussing Tiger King!  Thankfully, I had watched it and knew something about it.  Not a single question about academics!  The 8 students wanted to let me know they miss me and that they like having the meetings so they can talk to someone other than their family.  I’ll take it!

Jena, these are my notes/list from my meeting. Definitely not Bullet Journal worthy!  And if they look like they were taken on the back of scratch paper, they were!  When I do what needs to get done, I’ll throw them away.

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Day 28 of Isolation

I can’t believe it has been 4 weeks of Isolation!  It is my understanding that we have at least 4 more to go, if not more.  Los Angeles City extended their Stay-at-Home order to May 15th today and California Governor said he doesn’t know when it will be lifted for the state.  Some are predicting 6-8 more weeks of Stay at Home.

We both had a work-filled day.  We held “office hours” for the students, worked on next week’s “optional” lessons, documented student “participation”, and had virtual meetings to attend.

I have to document which students are participating – even if all they do is look at my web page, that counts as participation even if they don’t do the assignment.

My school district has decided that all grades for this semester will be based on the progress report we sent out late February.  If they received an F, the work they did before shutdown can only help their grade.  We are also only giving Credit/No Credit marks.  No actual grades.  The UC (University of California) and CSU (California State University) systems have agreed to accept Credit marks for this semester for the next 4 years.  Once parents know this, I have a feeling the amount of “participation” will drop even lower than it currently is.  The district is sending out notification to parents and students today.  John hasn’t heard about grades yet from his district.

And other stuff today:

  • Trying to catch up on blog reading.
  • Finished another 1000 piece puzzle we started night before last.

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Coronavirus “Spring Break”

Well, it happened.  My school was one of MANY in California that is on a 3 week public health hiatus.  John’s district hasn’t closed any schools yet, but he is currently on Spring Break.  My principal made it very clear that since the health department is closing us, we are expected to isolate/self-quarantine.

Thankfully, we are not expected to prepare lessons for the students.  I posted a few things they will need to do when we return – hopefully they will do it since it is the family life unit.  It’s usually the one chapter of the book they look at!

Hope every one is staying safe and healthy during this unusual situation we find ourselves in.

old work stuff needs to go

As a teacher, we hoard all kinds of teaching supplies.  Last weekend I went through a cabinet in the hallway that housed OLD teacher editions of textbooks (copyright 1993) and associated supplemental materials.  We are in the early stages of adopting a new textbook and these are at least 3 adoptions ago!  I couldn’t tell you the last time I looked at them.

The text bank book even mentions that IF you have a computer to contact them and they will send you a disk with the text questions.  I’m assuming it is a 3.5 floppy!

So here are the pictures of all the supplemental materials I got rid of.  The actual teacher editions I took back to school just in case anyone wants one. (doubtful, but you never know)

Why do we keep things like this??  Any other middle school science teachers have these still?

When to Declutter Work Obligations

This is something many of us struggle with professionally.  When do you draw the line and declutter an obligation?  Are you willing to risk it professionally?

John and I are teachers – he is at high school and I am at middle school.  So far this school year, I have missed 9 school days because of professional obligations.  Keep in mind, we have only been in school with students 41 school days.  Those who have taught understand the time obligation required to miss class – substitute teacher plans have to be prepared and then the “cleanup” after a sub has been in your class.

So back to my initial questions:

Am I willing to risk decluttering the obligations?  Sort of – the closer I get to retirement, the easier it has been to eliminate voluntary obligations.  I’m not resume building anymore.  Odds are nothing is going to affect my professional reputation if I “quit” the voluntary stuff.  But what about those obligations we are volunTOLD to do?  This is harder to do when every one on your department (grade level) team is voluntold to do something.

Mine right now is finding ways to make a “meaningful impact” on student achievement.  Without going into details, this is taking HOURS every week without much evidence we are making progress.  It is also affecting the amount of content that gets covered because we are obligated to “try” something new all the time.  This doesn’t occur just in education – many are voluntold and our professional reputation could be on the line.

When do you draw the line to declutter a professional obligation?   Anytime it starts interfering with my health is an obvious answer.  When is that exactly and how do you get rid of a professional obligation that is part of your job description?

Stress has a weird way of acting on our body.   What are the symptoms that make you decide enough is enough?  I’m a union representative for our school.  Nothing major has happened but I’m feeling it’s time to let this go – union rep, district curriculum writer, “impact” department.  Time is starting to feel crunched (guess this is my symptom) and something has to go.  It is a voluntary obligation and I’m sure the other 4 reps at our site can handle things.

Guess the conclusion I have reached after actually “verbalizing” all of the above is we need to take care of ourselves!  If we don’t, it will start affecting our health (physical and psychological), relationships, etc.

I would love to hear your thoughts for these questions.  When do you draw the line and declutter a professional obligation?  When are you willing to risk it?