By Creekside High Teacher Walt Williams
It's Thursday the 16 of April and I’ve been looking forward to the boy’s tennis match with Napa all season. My lineup is set, the boys are looking strong this year and we have two vans and 10 players pumped for our 2:00 departure. Before that I have to teach my normal Thursday classes of Algebra, Art and Geometry. Students are having trouble with exponential functions in Algebra (if only there was a real-life example…) but are inspired preparing for an end of the year art show plus are secretly learning about three-dimensional construction by making mini-libraries in Geometry…
I wake up from the dream, not at my normal 5:30 but sometime around 8. Our Creekside virtual staff meetings are MWF at 8:30, which means I have my daily virtual office hours from 12-1 and a student Zoom meetup at 2:00 but otherwise the day is open. I check my phone while making coffee downstairs; three students have sent work somewhere between 7:00 last night and this morning. Normal school hours no longer apply. Normal rules no longer apply. Normal no longer applies.
I sent out an inquiry letter to students along with this week’s Google classroom assignments. Just checking in with what’s working and what’s not. They like watching videos and answering questions, and they like to be challenged but not too much. Most have developed personal schedules and are happy that the district has provided and prioritized chromebooks and Wi-Fi access. They all appreciate the support and staying connected. Participation is at about 50% and growing which might seem low but for my posse it’s pretty good.
Most reported they would rather be in school doing work because of distractions (I flash on my Thursday to-do list: mortgage refinance, painting trim, yard work, exercise, chicken skewers and pot stickers for dinner). I put on my new favorite Pandora station (MIA radio) and dance around the kitchen to Panjabi MC. The new normal at least has a good soundtrack.
I check into my Google Classroom around 9, grade papers, input scores in Gradebook and read SF Gate and the NY Times online. I check email around 10 and am ecstatic to find a request from the Education Foundation to write for this week’s newsletter. Any positive teacher validation is greatly appreciated.
I have a student who checks in most days during office hours and as my Algebra TA Snapchats and Instagrams the students who are not keeping up with assignments. Distance Learning has required some pivoting in how I teach but I can only dive down the rabbit hole of social media so deeply.
The 2:00 Zoom meetup is lightly attended but it’s always nice to see familiar faces. My colleague tears up telling a story of how she cherishes the memory of a field trip the Friday before this all began. This is hard and this is messy but this is what it is.