In which I’ve been thinking

At this point I am fairly certain that my students will not be returning to school during the second semester. It is possible that they will– the district has given no hints that I’m aware of of how long this current round of e-learning is expected to last– but the notion that we’d send them home at the end of November and bring them back before January seems unreasonable even by my current district’s standards.

So I’ve ben thinking a lot about semester grades. In the past week, the following have all happened:

  • One student’s mother had a baby and she promptly stopped coming to school or showing up virtually. I am a hundred percent certain she has been taking care of her five other siblings.
  • One student emailed me to let me know that her mother has tested positive for covid and that she and her twin sister have not been tested but have been sick and are both assuming they have it.
  • One student, who was a straight-A kid until we went to e-learning in March, at which point he disappeared, has remained disappeared all year up until this week, where he resurfaced, emailed me to find out what work he could still do, did five weeks worth of work in two days, and assured me that he would be around regularly from now on. He did the work after I told him that I’d be happy to exempt him from it depending on why he’d been gone. He said he didn’t want to talk about it and then did all the work, which … raises some questions.

I have had at least one suicide attempt this school year, one student (more than one? Christ, I don’t remember) had a sibling murdered, and at least two have done stints in mental hospitals. And that’s just the stuff I know about. Then there’s the less emotionally taxing stuff like internet outages or internet not-existings.

I think I’m passing everyone this semester. Everyone. No matter what. The minimum grade anyone could get in my class at semester would be a D.

I refuse to fuck up anybody’s lives any further by tossing shitty grades onto all of the bullshit they’re already having to endure right now. So, theoretically– hell, not theoretically, I know it’s going to happen– there will be some kids with no particular life traumas, full internet access, and happy, middle-class two-parent homes who have done no work at all this semester because they’re shitheads who don’t care and know they can get away with it.

That kid got a D and didn’t “deserve” the grade he got. He didn’t try, and he should have failed. Chose to, in fact.

My rebuttal, and you best believe I’m being completely honest right now: What the fuck do I care?

It’s not like it’s a good grade. Getting a D in my math class isn’t going to amass any privileges for him or anything. But not failing for a kid whose life has gone to shit recently in any of a number of ways could at least theoretically provide a moment of good news in a year that for many of us has had very little of it. And frankly, right now, that’s enough for me to justify it, I think.

I haven’t completely decided, and I did email my boss to see if he wanted any input on the matter, so I may end up overruled anyway. But I think there’s a good chance of me putting a D in as the floor on my grades this semester.

What say you, internet?

Well, this sucks

I gotta say, I know a lot of places have been harder-hit than us, and I know good and well we’re far from the first area to have to do this, but … Christ, is that a jarring fucking headline to see on your hometown newspaper’s website.

My district just announced that we’re going back to all virtual instruction starting after school next Tuesday. Which is good; we shouldn’t have been back in the first place. We started off the year with the district telling us “data, not dates,” and keeping us out until a week before the end of the first quarter, which … maybe some attention to dates might have been good, as there’s no real reason to come back right before a quarter ends. It was made clear to us that we’d be following the county’s recommendations for our metrics and for when we’d be closing.

Then shit got a lot worse, and they brought us back, which makes perfect sense, ignoring the county-level data in favor of quietly moving to state metrics. I can tell you everything you need to know about our state numbers by pointing out that nothing has changed on our alert level since school restarted despite the fact that we have something like ten times as many daily infections now than we did then. If that can happen without your alert level changing, your metrics are (deliberately) garbage.

All of our neighboring districts have announced in the last few days that they were going virtual. The word from our district– this is a direct quote– was that school closings would be “reactive, not preventative”– in other words, we’d be closing if we got lots of cases or lots of absences due to quarantines in schools, but only individual schools affected by those cases or absences. We would only close because of people being sick, not to prevent people becoming sick. Then they announced two schools would close. Neither of the two schools appeared to be worse than any others on their covid dashboard; indeed, one of them wasn’t even on there.

(The reliability of our district Covid dashboard is, to put it mildly, in dispute.)

Meanwhile, my school has averaged 10 teachers out a day in the last couple of weeks. I don’t know what they think is going on if a quarter of the teachers being out isn’t enough. My kids have been doubled and tripled up in classrooms, which eliminates any benefit of cutting the number of kids in the building.

And today, they abandoned that policy– granted, it was dumb, but still– and sent us all home. In the hour and a half since announcing we were going back to virtual they have already announced that the day we were going back was wrong and changed it– I had to rewrite a paragraph of this because we got new information. Right now they’re still in school Monday and Tuesday and then out indefinitely after that; Wednesday was going to be the first day of Thanksgiving break anyway.

I suspect I will see virtually none of my kids on Monday and Tuesday. I am seriously considering not bothering to assign anything.

God, I’m glad it’s Friday.

In which hybrid is homogeneous

My students have very clearly figured out that having to wear a mask for eight hours while attending classes in rooms that do not contain their teachers– because we are either at home because we put in paperwork to be or because we are currently in quarantine– is not actually any better than just being at home. I never had big numbers of kids in any given class since we made the switch to hybrid– subtracting out about a third from any given group for kids that are staying at home then divide them again by their last names means that about 10 was as big as any group was going to get, and the vagaries of statistics meant that I had a couple groups as small as three or four. A few weeks later, my biggest group today was four kids, both my partner teacher and my co-teacher are out because they’re close contacts for COVID– one of them has been sick, and is being tested today– and I had two classes with zero in-person students.

Turns out I can probably stop hassling the school board to shut down the schools, because my 8th graders are making that decision all by themselves. I have 142 8th grade students. Twelve showed up to physical school today.

We are spending too much money on buses, class coverage (I keep writing “subs” and having to delete it; there are no subs. Subs make $100 a day. If a teacher has to cover a class, that’s $35 an hour, and teachers are covering every single class) and just fucking keeping the lights on and the buildings heated for an entire grade’s worth of in-person learning to be twelve kids. I bet it will be fewer tomorrow, too; one or two of this group is going to go home and tell Mom that they only had one class with more than one other person in it and that’s gonna be it for them.

But hey, it’s not like my tax dollars pay for this or anything.

In which Twitter goes subcutaneous

I am exceptionally annoyed that I genuinely can’t think of anything that I accomplished this year beyond the raw fact that at least so far I’ve survived the motherfucker. I replied to this on Twitter and said that all I could really think of were some minor social media metrics– the blog is going to get more hits than last year, and I’ve written here more than last year, and I’ve built my TikTok account from zero to nearly 5K in the last few months, but … I feel like calling those accomplishments is giving them more credit than they deserve.

Like, I read a bunch? And as of right now I’m caught up on my grading? That’s what I’ve got to brag on.

Survival’s going to have to be enough this year, I think. I’m putting off trying to achieve anything until at least February.

(Also, it’s a sign of just how tired people are of this year that they’re starting to try and trigger the end-of-year reminiscence and award-season bullshit in November.)

In which developments fascinate

Everybody seemed to be in a good mood today; none of the usual Monday-morning crabbiness. I wonder why?

In other news, my partner teacher has Covid. They emailed me last night to let me know, and I got an official notification from the principal today that a staff member had tested positive but that I was not considered a “close contact” of the person and therefore had no need to quarantine. Which, duh, this is exactly why I’m working from home, a decision that is now 100% vindicated. As of right now, I’m not clear on how many people in the building are currently quarantining, but I pay attention to the emails we get, and several staff members don’t appear to have been in the building for a while. My partner said that they had contracted the disease at school in the email, but wasn’t specific as to where that certainty came from.

No word also on how many students are expected to quarantine. I would think a good portion of our mutual students would count as close contacts, and I’d have to hear about it from them, as the office isn’t especially likely to tell me what students they’ve sent home. That said, the guidance the district is using is bullshit, so it’s entirely possible they’ve determined that none of the students are close contacts. I’m sure we will know quickly if that was the right decision to make.

Meanwhile, this is what the county looks like:

And this is what the state looks like:

School started just after that huge spike in the county data, which was Notre Dame sorting through the mess of their first few weeks. They came back just before we did.

I’m sure everything will be fine.