Hybrid Teaching: What's Working, What's Not, and What I'm Learning
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
I am nearing the end of my second month of school here in NJ. My district is doing a hybrid schedule and cohorts. I have students coming in Monday/Tuesday, Wednesday all virtual, Thursday/Friday another group. I have to move to them...my classroom is not mine this year. My students are also only in for half days, but they are serving lunch (they leave at 1:48). The afternoons are reserved for extra help sessions. We've already gone all virtual a few times for a few days due to a small portion of coronavirus cases.
Read about what's working for me, what's not, what I am learning, and how I am feeling about all of this!
I am Zooming with all students, in and out of class, at their scheduled ELA times. This has made my life more manageable and probably theirs, too. This allows them to talk to others at home when doing breakout rooms. It's also so much easier to take attendance daily and gives them a routine. Since their days change all the time due to the cohorts, the consistency of logging in at the same time everyday helps a ton.
I have an hour for ELA this year, compared to 82 minutes. This is NOT working so read about that later.
They come into Zoom and we read independently, cameras off. I use GoGuardian to monitor screens and this has been a HUGE benefit to have. I've really found that my students ARE reading and not distracted. How can I tell? Well, a lot are reading digital books on their Chromebooks, for one. I also see them consistently updating their Reading Records. Also, I often see them closing their books once they pop their cameras back on. I think they really enjoy their reading time because it's a screen break. I do have a library set up on a cart in my hallway for those who come in. I have found most kids are buying books or using the public library. I've been working with the library like crazy to make books for accessible for the students.
Also, a dual monitor is essential. You can use two laptops, too. I am using a SideTrack monitor attached to my screen because I can easily drag my mouse over to the other screen. I put my GoGuardian on my second screen to watch and chat with students.
After independent reading time, I teach my main lesson. I do expect them to have cameras on during this time. I have had zero issues with this. I have about 4 kids who tilt their screens up on the ceiling, but otherwise most have felt very comfortable doing so. Everyone has been judgment free and honestly, I think they realize it's the temporary normal (I will NOT call it the new normal). My main lesson is pretty much done the same way I've always done it. Since all my material has been digital anyway, it's been a pretty seamless transition. I share my screen, encouraging them to split their screens with their work and my shared screen, to model what I expect them to do.
Next, they do partner talks about the lesson in breakout rooms. This has been more on the not working side of things, BUT it does allow them an opportunity to share their thinking. Lastly, they've been working independently in their own individual rooms. I do this so I can pop in and help them without being singled out. I also chat with them through GoGuardian. This has been fantastic actually. I feel students have been more open this year than every before since they can talk with me more privately. I am definitely going to use the chatting feature in the future..
Each day, I post a Today in ELA slide (click to get it) on Google Classroom and Classtag (for parents...blog about that here). On the slide, I list what we did that day and what they need to do. It's helpful to have it all in one spot. I've had positive feedback about it and it helps hold everyone accountable. Parents can't tell me their child didn't know about an assignment because it's all right there for them everyday. I suppose some teachers are doing something similar with Bitmoji classrooms.
As for moving classrooms, I don't bother with any technology besides my MacBook, AirPods, and a Bluetooth speaker. I keep one AirPod in my ear so the kids at home can hear me when I am walking around. I use the Bluetooth speaker to play music or podcasts for the kids in the classroom.
Behavior is a non-issue for me. Well, social misbehavior. Since students are pretty much alone, they aren't getting distracted by peers. I have had a lot more focus from students who I suspect would have difficulty around peers.
Most parents have been fantastic, as well. They've set up their students for success. Most students are in quiet, focused areas. Most students are upright and paying attention. I've had some great parent partners this year. The parents who are sympathetic to the situation have really helped immensely. They realize they have to be involved, too, maybe more so than a typical year.
What's Not Working
Here come the complaints!
Traveling classrooms has been a royal pain. I am constantly losing time. I have to take attendance for each period and it's a struggle daily to do with kids being late. Travel time is super short and I teach ALL day since it's a shortened day...bathroom breaks are non-existent. Also, not having my library is a huge pitfall. Students are using eBooks and if they are in the building, I have a little cart outside they can choose from. Thing is, lots of kids don't use their library cards, have fines, etc. so it's so difficult for some to access books. I can't stand using eBooks. I need my students to skim through books to find text details...not click click clicking and waiting for pages to load.
Checking assignments is taking 3x as long. Normally, I can spot check things in class when they have their work open. I'd walk around, look at their screens, done. Now...spot checking is not working. To go and open every students' slides, scrolling down, waiting for the load...it takes an eternity. Plus, students getting work finished is a struggle. I am being flexible and letting them hand things in late, but UGH. It's so much more work for me. I started using a late work Google Form to make it a bit more manageable, but it's just constant.
I also have less time to teach ELA this year...down to 60 minutes from 82. That's a solid 20+ minutes gone. Typically, I'd use that time to do grammar and vocabulary...well now they are doing it during their at-home time. I get MAYBE 60% of students doing it.
On the topic of work getting done, yea, that's a definite problem. It's not terrible, but I have quite a few kids constantly doing work late and about 3 kids doing nothing. Keeping up with the late work is exhausting and takes up so much time. I am giving a lot of grace this year, so I've been letting kids email me when they submit late work, but it's just so much click clicking around. I am chasing kids all the time. I am emailing parents all. the. time.
While I have a lot of fantastic parent partners, there are some parents who are really on edge this year. I get it, I do. I am a parent, but some parents are straight up rude this year. I am shocked at how some have spoken to me. Many want "grace" but also don't give us teachers that same grace. I've never had some of the rudeness I've heard this year so far. I am trying to tell myself it's because it's 2020 and 2020 is just terrible. But of course, I always question what I do when I get those nasty emails. They've gotten better; I think a lot of parents in the beginning were freaking out with all the new 6th grade stuff and I've had some lovely emails, too.
All of the CDC guidelines are also terrible. Masks. Social distancing. Sanitizing. I get it. I know we have to do it, but it's just not conducive to what we do all day. The masks are awful. Again, not an anti-masker, but I truly hope this won't be a forever thing. I miss flexible seating so much and I feel like that is long gone. Also, it's terrible for collaborative work. Students don't want to talk in breakout rooms. I am trying to get them to talk in class, but, eh, it's not the greatest.
What I'm Learning
I am working on lowering my expectations a bit. I've essentially been teaching the same material, but with a condensed schedule and students' crazy home lives; I have to face reality and be more flexible with my standards. I am trying to tell myself that my expectations are way higher than a lot of teachers in a normal year, so, it's not a big deal.
With managing work, a colleague of mine came up with the idea of a Late Work Google Form. This has been fantastic. Students directly link their late assignments to the form so I can click right to it and grade. This has been making late work more manageable.
I am also learning that I have to chill with chasing kids down. For some reason, I think it's my personal responsibility to make kids responsible. There has to be a point where it is what it is...no matter how many times I email home, work with them "after school", some of them just won't care and won't try. Hopefully someday they will learn, but I cannot hold myself responsible for student choices. I take everything so personally.
I need to be flexible with students and their home lives. I get so mad when parents don't, well, parent their child, but I can't hold this against a kid. If a kid's parent won't help them get a library book, I will get it for them. I just have to. Some families are really struggling right now. While I have an ideal picture in my head of how all of this should look, it may not be realistic to everyone.
Everything is a learning experience. That's how I am looking at this school year, for sure. We can't take things personally and be optimistic that things will get better!
Also, don't forget to squeeze in some FUN time and just chit-chat time. I love chit-chatting with my cohort kiddos between classes and when all my tech is loading up. I also love chit-chatting with kids as they leave breakout rooms!
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