An admission

As an educator, I don’t mind e-learning. Like, at all.

It makes me feel bad that that’s true, but it still is. Make no mistake; most teachers are killing themselves this year, especially those who are in hybrid situations. My personal situation has been helped immeasurably by the fact that I managed to snag a medical exemption to stay home full-time, so I can’t be dragged back and forth from my building, and as it turns out, if some of your kids are home and some are in school, it’s actually a lot more manageable if you’re at home rather than in the building.

But in all seriousness? I’ve always written most of my own assignments. I’m more than technically competent enough that that aspect of distance learning doesn’t bother me at all. And– and this is the kicker– I don’t have to deal with discipline, at all. Now, don’t misunderstand me; my kids are going to learn much more in a face-to-face, non-pandemic set of circumstances than they are in this; when I say I don’t mind e-learning, I mean from a “personal stress level” standpoint, not from a “student learning” standpoint. In person is clearly superior for student learning outcomes, but we can’t have that right now because of the slightly more important “keeping everyone alive” outcomes. But god damn do I like being able to get through a lesson without getting interrupted a hundred times, and I also have a number of students who are undeniably benefiting from the lack of distractions that, well, everyone else provides nearly constantly int he classroom.

I have a number of others who are suffering from the isolation and are simply not good at self-directing their learning, mind you; I’m not trying to minimize the effect they’re having on them. That’s part of the reason I passed everyone. I simply can’t expect a 14-year-old to be able to self-regulate like that in the absence of a parent standing over their shoulder.

But me? Personally? I mean, I”m stressed; everybody’s stressed. But as far as my job? I’m doing fine. I needed winter break this year less than I ever have. I can’t believe that that’s true, but it is.

Grading update

Quick post tonight, because my eyes are bugging me and my head is full of The Mandalorian but I don’t want to talk about it yet– I did, in the end, refuse to fail any of my students, at least for the semester. I decided any missing work would go in at 40% rather than a 0– 40% because it puts a little bit of a buffer between that and the 50% floor grade I’ve always used for work that was attempted but done poorly. After that, any student between 51 and 59% got bumped up to a D-, and then I did give the higher of the two quarter grades as a semester grade rather than an average. For most of my students that didn’t end up being much of a change; a B+ sliding up to an A- or maybe a D+ going to a C, but there were a few where it was a pretty staggering jump, and I don’t care. If you were an A student one grading period and an F student another grading period, it’s because something happened, not because you suddenly forgot how to add. That actually did happen with two students, and I gave both of them the A.

There were maybe twenty kids who still failed both quarters even with those changes, and those kids got an N, which is effectively a “no grade.” Basically every kid who did something over the course of the semester passed. I don’t know that I’m willing to go to quite these lengths to keep kids from failing in a non-pandemic sort of situation, but that’s the situation we’re in right now, so I’m going to adapt to it.

Thinking through my grades

My final grades for the quarter and for the semester are due … well, actually, I don’t have any idea when they’re due, but they’re going to be finished on Friday before noon. I’ve talked before about how much it rubs me wrong to fail any of my kids this quarter, and I’m currently thinking about what I want to do about my grades right now. Represented above are the actual current grades for my first hour students. The Q1 grade is what they actually received (you can see a couple, like Marge Simpson and Riri Williams, whose grades I nudged up a bit already) and the Q2 grade is their current grade with my current policies on grading– ie, nothing turned in and genuinely attempted receives less than a 50%, but work that is not turned in at all receives a 0.

(There are one or two kids whose grades go down slightly; this is an artifact of me doing this quick and sloppy and a couple of extra credit assignments causing weirdness. Ignore those.)

Ignore the third column of numbers, as it’s just their total number of points. The fourth column is their grade in the 2nd quarter if I change every zero to a 50%. The ones highlighted in yellow are the kids who would still fail the quarter under that arrangement. Highlighted in green are the kids whose grades would have been Fs for the 2nd quarter but move into passing range if I bring up zeroes to 50s. Homey DeClown should also be green; I missed him.

A couple of things stand out. First, note Bruce Wayne, who had a D+ during the first quarter and is pulling a hundred percent during the second quarter. Bruce has not suddenly become a good math student, and interestingly, Bruce’s sister’s grade also shot up. I am attributing this to issues at home during the first quarter. Notice also the grade of Montgomery Burns, who was a stellar student first quarter and who fell apart during second– also not, I presume, because all of his math ability suddenly leaked out of his ear.

I have no reason to believe that this class is any different from the rest of mine. We have been given the option of giving an N grade to kids who simply haven’t shown up; N effectively means No Grade. There is talk about high school students having to retake any grade they got an N on and it will not change a GPA. I am fully expecting them to back off on that requirement and I don’t actually know whether it applies to middle school.

At any rate, of the six kids who would still be failing: Flash Gordon has been in touch all year, and I am absolutely certain that the reason he’s not been in school is that he’s been raising his siblings. He’s passing. I should have passed him first quarter, honestly. Peter Parker, as far as I know (and I’m cognizant of the fact that there’s a lot I don’t know) is the kid you’re thinking of when you talk about the kids who don’t deserve the bump they’d get from me fiddling with their grades, because they made their beds and they should sleep in them. Last year he was a smart kid who chose to fail and frankly e-learning hasn’t noticeably changed his grades. The rest of them have more or less been no-shows and would be good candidates for the N grade.

Also, I’m not averaging semester grades. The semester grade is going to be the higher of the two quarter grades, period. I’m doing that even if I don’t end up bumping the zeroes to 50s. The office can fight me on it if they want to; I don’t think they will and frankly it’s a fight that I think I’m well-positioned to win.

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.