A Day in the Life of an MISD Teacher
The following is a diary from Midland ISD teacher Holly Aguila as she went back to school this week.
MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) - Wednesday, August 19,2020. First Day of School
Today’s the day...endless summer 2020 is over. Girls will start logging in to their Google Meets and Google Classrooms in about 3 hours. Most are so anxious to start school and see their teachers and friends (even if only in tiny Brady Bunch boxes in our Google Meet.) But in order to be my best for them, it’s time for some self-care to start the day...10 minute morning yoga (today’s affirmation is “I am filled with creative energy”...appropriate considering that we will need to channel that creative energy as glitches throughout the day are sure to come). Then a 30-minute cardio YouTube video. Deep breaths. Quarantine has been GREAT for me to establish a morning routine that gives me energy and makes me feel good.
After dropping my daughter off at junior high volleyball tryouts, I head to school. Tryouts are over at 9:00, then her virtual classes start at 9:30...not a problem this week, but starting next week will pose logistical challenges for our family, as Midland College classes are in-person and my husband and I will both be teaching when practice is over; we’re not sure yet how she will get home to attend her classes for the rest of the day. I’ve heard there might be a bus to take her to the closest elementary school to our house, but that still leaves her with a 15 minute walk and she’ll have to cross 2 very busy streets. Even with crosswalks and traffic lights this makes me nervous. Even if a gracious parent offers to take her home for us, COVID-19 is still a concern as it increases the number of people both families have now been exposed to...how do I know if they are taking as much care as we are with social-distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing? And how can they be sure we have been as careful as we can be? Surely I can’t be the only parent thinking this, and many families haven’t been able to work remotely since March like mine has.
I login to my Google Meet for my 7th grade advisory class. The girls look so cute in their dress uniforms. Many are nervous because they’re new at YWLA this year. They say they have received the Google Classroom invites for all of their classes, so they have the links and know which classes to log into today (we’re on a block schedule so they’ll see 4 of their classes on Monday and Wednesday and the other 4 on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday is for asynchronous work and tutoring.
By 8:37 we’ve already said the pledges and started some community building activities with advisory when our “regular” bell rings bittersweetly over the PA. When will the girls actually be here to hear it LIVE? The tentative date is September 16th, but I have my doubts. The MISD COVID-19 dashboard is up to 41 cases now, 10 of which have come in August, and 4 of those in the last 7 days. And that’s without any students on campus at all.
Advisory ends and I send my students on their way to their 1st period class. Very few students in the school didn’t make it to advisory, a testament to all of the hard work of my colleagues in making sure they had what they needed to be successful - Chromebooks, hotspots, books, notebooks, mini-whiteboards & expo markers, course specific material. By 10:00 we had been in contact with everyone that was missing and by noon all students were in class and learning.
Lunchtime. Answer emails and make sure students with schedule changes have the invites for the new Google Classrooms.
The last class of the day ends and I open my Google Meet for open office hours as I continue responding to today’s 30+ emails and preparing for tomorrow’s new classes.
Emails and group messages checking on kids have been overwhelming today, and as I’m trying to pack up and go home to my family, I count 70 group texts, all showing relentless teamwork to ensure our students and teachers have what they need to succeed during At-Home Learning and beyond. It’s been a good first day of school. Messages come in from parents all afternoon about how smoothly the day went for their daughters and how excited they are to be at YWLA.
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Well, today’s going to be stressful...home internet went out at 9:00 pm and Suddenlink says we need a new modem and that they can’t send a technician out until Friday afternoon. Luckily I’m not working from home now like in the spring. However that doesn’t help my daughter. What arrangements can we make quickly this morning for her to be able to attend her LIVE virtual classes today. My morning routine is a bit disrupted as YouTube yoga and cardio videos aren’t possible at home without wifi. But I manage to exercise without them. Today’s morning yoga affirmation is “I appreciate those closest to me.” Yes, I most certainly do.
Arrive at school and make quick modifications to plans I couldn’t update last night due to lack of wifi.
Virtual faculty meeting about how to mark attendance this week, as students aren’t absent on the first day of school because they aren’t officially enrolled yet. As long as the student interacts with us in some form by 11:59 p.m. they are marked “Remote Asynchronous” Present.
Advisory class starts. All students present or accounted for, and we show the girls a beautiful video with the first day of school pix that parents sent in. The girls are absolutely adorable smiling from ear to ear proudly donning their dress uniform. I actually tear up a bit. It’s really special here.
First of 4 one-hour long live classes today using Google Meets. My students and I are engaged and interacting for the entire 60 minutes, leaving no down time until live virtual office hours at 2:00. I spend lunchtime replying to emails and making sure all of the students who have had schedule changes in the last day have been invited to the correct Google Classroom.
Conversations with other teachers about how other schools and classes have or haven’t been working compared to ours. While it’s only day 2 of At-Home Learning, anecdotally there are great disparities throughout the district, with stories of how ill-prepared many teachers were for the actual delivery of virtual instruction. Many assume that it’s not that big of a deal...whatever you do in-person, just do it in front of the webcam. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Not enough time was devoted to technology and Google Classroom during pre-service PD to train every single teacher to be at least minimally prepared for Google Classroom and live classes. Although we had basic training on how to set up the Google Classroom,I don’t think we had enough for actual lesson delivery to thrive this month rather than simply limping along waiting to be back in-person. It wouldn’t surprise me if a good number of teachers would have likely done this training voluntarily during the summer had they been given any more direction as to likely return-to-school scenarios. I feel like the good will and positive outpouring from the community we received in the spring is starting to dry up, and now if we don’t showlearning objectives being met during at-home instruction, everyone will forget the good things that have come because of COVID.
So we’ve just heard that MISD has decided to accelerate the return of students to campus. No more information yet, but considering how cautious they were to announce the original back to school plan on August 4th despite EVERYONE wanting to know at least what they were thinking likely scenarios might be, (and a plan that seemed very well thought out to me), I can only imagine that they must be receiving a lot of pressure to return earlier. Why the sudden rush? Makes me wonder if there is really something else going on.
Friday, August 21, 2020
Today’s morning yoga affirmation: “All is well and I am safe.” Home internet still out.
Already have students emailing that links in Google Classroom aren’t working. They’re trying, I’m trying, but it’s frustrating not to have a “student view” available for the various platforms I’m trying to use to see exactly what the student experience is, since whenever I click on the links I’m recognized as a teacher with extra access. Maybe this is a feature I haven’t found yet…will seek help today to determine.
Advisory is the only class meeting LIVE today, giving students an opportunity to complete assignments asynchronously, and teachers time to review and grade the assignments that have been submitted so far, as well as prepare for next week. During advisory, students mention the multitude of scenarios they have already heard about returning early. Unfortunately I have no information to share with them about the new plan and how it will be implemented.
Faculty meeting for debriefing, tips, and tricks to facilitate best practices for attendance and posting Meet videos, as well as a chance to review what went well this week and what tweaks we need to make for next week.
Panicked students emailing that the links aren’t working in Flipgrid. I can’t log in either. A server must be down somewhere. While all of the student emails about the problem are overwhelming, it is nice to know that they are trying to do their work and are concerned that they may lose points if they don’t complete it. My students are not apathetic; they are engaged in their classes, and we are all doing the best we can with the things that are under our control. It’s definitely been an unusual first week of school, but I think given the unprecedented circumstances in which we all find ourselves in this August 2020, the 2020-2021 school year is off to a great start.
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