Back to School

By Bill Hecht | November 4, 2020

I teach in a suburban high school. Our town decided to go with the Hybrid Model, but did not commit to the decision until mid-August, which left little time to make things happen: schedule 1800 students, reconfigure the building and solidify course re-planning. Kids arrived physically on 16 September. Since then this is what is has been like.

Parents had two schedule options: Hybrid Model or Remote Academy. Under the Hybrid Model, students are divided into A and B cohorts. A attends Monday and Tuesday and is remote Thursday and Friday when B is here. Everyone is remote on Wednesday while the building is deep cleaned. Each student attends every class three times a week but is only physically in each class once a week; otherwise students are in virtual classrooms or working on an assignment.

Under Remote Academy, kids are virtual all the time. A faculty member is likely teaching them. The teacher may be fully remote, due to some medical dispensation, or could in the building. We also have some students who are taking classes through Virtual High School. In these instances, the teachers are not associated with us.

Neither model is ideal, but any solution would have pissed off someone. The kids—they are GLAD to be back. They are teenagers for god’s sake; the last thing most of them want is to spend more time at home. As one of them said to me; “I don’t want to be home, staying home sucks, I want to be here.”  All the kids I have talked to echo this attitude. They universally want to be in school, a feeling that is reflected in how hard they are working to follow the safety rules.

Physically this is what it’s like. Students wait outside until a few minutes before the first class starts to prevent them from congregating inside. The poor weather option will be the gymnasiums and cafe. The new layout accommodates six feet between desks in classrooms and ensures separation in all other workspaces. Corridors are one-way and the cafeteria tables were replaced with desks six feet apart. One of the gyms is being used as a cafeteria as well to handle the overflow. Faculty consistently reinforces social distancing, but even with reminders, the school can be like the grocery store. Distancing happens where there is room and where people can see you, but it goes out the window at other times. There are some face-to-face meetings, but most are virtual. We just had our first professional day. We were all here at school, but attending everything virtually. It seemed rather strange.

The teachers are overwhelmed. Because this plan was pulled together in such a short time we are dealing with many loose ends. For example, our district decided to implement a new online service for managing assignments and grades. It is supposed to aggregate all the other systems, but it is just one more thing to manage, learn and introduce to the students and parents. We feel like we are just keeping our heads above water. Most instructors are far behind in the curriculum; much of what is normally taught has been cut out. Its only mid-October and everyone I talk to sounds like they do in mid-May. Twenty-one years of teaching has taught me that the single most important thing we do is to spend meaningful time with kids; anything that takes away from that diminishes our work, and right now that interaction piece is very small indeed.

I want to leave on this note. I come at this profession with a different perspective. I was an officer in the USAF for 12 years before I l became a teacher. This experience taught me the value of leadership, the need to be professionally dedicated to a skill and how to work under adversity. Teachers do this job out of love. When they complain, or argue with a town or state, it is because they care about your children. It is because they aren’t given the agency they need to do the job. The most insipid argument I hear when teachers are protesting is, “If you really cared about the children you wouldn’t…” That is bullshit—teachers care; we don’t do this for the fame and money. So when teachers complain, remember they are ultimately doing so for your children, and right now they are working their collective tails off to get the job done as best they know how.


Copyright © 2020 Bill Hecht


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  1. Bill Buchman on November 11, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to describe and give a picture of a situation that is hard for those of us with grown or no kids to imagine and for doing one of the most important jobs on earth!

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