Spliced Schooling (Part 1)

The news is playing again. There are some more educational experts on television speaking about education with Anderson, Rachel, Cuomo and D. Lemon (my favorite journalists), but where are the teachers’ voices? Let’s get after it!

We are here, and yes, we are thinking about how we are going to embark on ESY. Yes, summer school. The news playing in the background is talking about next school year. While the grid on my computer is comprised of special education teachers discussing ESY. Why, you say? Most of it has to do with IEPs. But does education have to happen in person in a pandemic? At our latest meeting, my school district is planning in-person summer school starting in a couple of weeks. 

We live in Northern California. Here’s some takeaways from what I learned these last 2 months of shelter-in-place. First, the teachers’ unions are involved trying to advocate for our students and ourselves.

Second, we have admin who haven’t ever taught special education dictating how things will be run. They have asked for our ideas. However, when do they really listen to our ideas anyway? Schooling is a land where no good deed goes unpunished. 

However, what if now were a time of not only the pandemic that keeps us sheltered-in-place, but also a pedagogical pandemic, of sorts?

The DNA of our current model is unraveling. The stairs unwind, as we unwind. What if we let go of our hierarchies and each contribute a piece of mRNA, so to speak? Viruses seek survival by changing the host’s gene expression response pattern. Thereby, replication is assured. How can we propagate new pedagogies?

And…what does this all have to do we summer school? First, we need to approach this by unspooling and then respooling our approaches. Here is a snapshot at what is being considered with our school district. The neediest students will receive summer school first. Space will be on a priority basis. Who determines that priority? Admin. For all the other students, teachers are being asked to rewrite the IEPs to take off summer school to keep the schools in legal compliance. 

There will be a 12:1 ratio. Teachers will kiss their kidney tables goodbye. Think, Pair, Shares with one’s elbow buddies will be Think, Pair, Shares across the room and across the screen. Students who have learned to share will be told, “you are not allowed.”

Teachers will be doing temperature checks. As for the PPEs, the school district said that they can’t find them anywhere and “are trying to get them made.” Special education teachers have the role in partnership with occupational therapists and speech pathologists to potty train, attend to healthcare needs (e.g. I used to change a student’s trach and teach students how to clean their hearing aides), there are functional life skills such as feeding, etc. that teachers sometimes need to be in close proximity. Sometimes we will literally hold a fork hand-over-hand to build those motor skills.

With that, some of our students are medically fragile. Indeed, some students and teachers will not be able to attend in person school whether it be their own health risks or living with a family member that has an increased risk for complications if exposed to the Covid-19 virus.

Therefore, learning will be blended (i.e. in person, virtually and/or paper purgatory) in the fall. As for this summer, some students with special needs still do not have access. We live 2 hours from Silicon Valley. Yet, our students K-2 will not have computer access until August. As such, learning is primarily through a paper packet purgatory. We’ve been asked to put busy work packets together. This spring, I’ve been trying to make it fun and engaging (e.g. adding in project-based learning and scavenger hunts) for my students who don’t have access. However, there is little one can do via paper packets. When teachers asked this spring if we could see the work our students did, we were told any work received by parents will be recycled.

With that I will close for this evening. The next post will be a more upbeat post as I am pondering and scribbling my ideas down. On my torn notes and doodles I keep coming back to DNA. What if we splice our scholarly pursuits?




2 responses to “Spliced Schooling (Part 1)”

  1. Thank you Cathy! Yes, I was in the first cohort of HASTAC Scholars! Yay! I am so thankful for the opportunity! Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I just read ths. We are wrapping up the school year. Have a great afternoon! Take good care. Best Wishes, Mechelle : )

  2. Hi Mechelle,  I think you were one of the very first HASTAC Scholars, right?  This is splendid.  I tweeted it out and I look forward to more.  You are so right.  No teachers!  Even in all the debate about higher ed opening or closing, f2f or online, no faculty!  No students!  And same with K-12.  Billionaire tech experts.  No one is really and actually expert on teaching kids.  Thank you for this crucial voice.