The Secret Struggle of Schoolteachers
JC Booth teachers were forced to make huge changes to prepare for a school year that is going to happen virtually in the COVID-19 pandemic. By completing training on the new learning management system, Schoology, and transforming their lesson plans so that learning can be done digitally, teachers have helped the learning process go on.
The information that is available about current events is changing rapidly, and so are the requirements that teachers must fulfill to provide students with the best education possible. Since decisions on how school was to open were not definitively made until late into the summer, teachers did not have that much time to prepare for the new school year of digital learning.
“There were…different tools we can use if we go virtual, so I looked over a few of those things…but, in terms of planning out, you know, really how the year might go and look…I felt like if I did any work over the summer I might just have to redo it all once we got to school,” Jeff Thompson, a JC Booth teacher, said.
Schoology, the program that has replaced Blackboard, was one thing teachers could plan on, and many worked on learning the ins and outs of it.
“Over the summer I was working on learning the new learning management system, Schoology…the teachers were given a level-up challenge with six different tasks we were supposed to work through, so I worked a little bit on that,” Ms. Williams, a seventh grade Booth teacher, said.
The decision of the Board of Education to introduce a new learning management system the year that so much else was changing could be seen as a big risk. Many teachers are challenged by learning a new system and worked throughout the summer to ensure that students can do their online assignments with ease.
Whether Schoology works or not, teachers will get to teach their students in-person for two days of the school week.
“I’m kind of excited about…starting in yellow, so I can use that time in the classroom to train students on these new programs, and so we can have a lot more diversity in what we get to do [online]…Last year, we kind of stuck with the same things forever. There wasn’t a whole lot of variety in what we were able to do,” Ms. Williams said.
With more time than last year to explore digital options, teachers may find new programs that are easier for students to use when learning from home. That could make teachers stumble across resources that they would have never found, had virtual learning not happened.
Despite the perks of the hybrid learning model, the plan is not entirely without dilemmas. One is that teachers had to formulate two plans: one for the students in the A group and one for the students in the B group. What will the online students do if the students at school are doing something that cannot be done at home? Will one group always have to be behind the other? These questions, amongst others, are ones that teachers have had to find solutions to.
“The yellow is, in particular, a little scary because I need to be preparing online lessons and doing digital for three days a week for half the kids, but I’m also teaching every day in the classroom,” Ms. Williams said.
Another problem is that teachers may have to rethink how they teach some standards. If in the past they relied on assignments that included group work, class discussions, ect., they are going to have to find online ways to do them or make new assignments. “This is going to be difficult for a lot of teachers. There’s a lot of teachers that have been doing this for 20, 25, 30 years one certain way or, you know, in a certain style. Now they’re having to change,” Mr. Thompson said. The change that teachers have had to forego is an abrupt one at that. Maybe the switch to online learning would have happened anyway, but it would have probably been a slower one.
“There’s a chance that brick and mortar will be interrupted by virus outbreaks, and we have to transition to virtual. But, we are going to be ready for that. We have more time to get ready for that this year, so it will be better if that does happen,” Ms. Post, the Booth Chorus teacher, said. Compared to last year, teachers have had more time to prepare digital assignments, along with the fact that they now have experience teaching an online classroom. The Board has decided on the levels green, yellow, and red, if the number of cases in the Fayette County school system starts to rise, teachers will know to prepare for a change to virtual learning, and if cases drop, teachers can prepare for in-person learning.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many drastic changes for the Fayette County school system, teachers being subject to many of them.
“Last year, we kind of started one way, and then things had to shift once we learned some things along the way. Whereas now, we have those things in place, so I think as teachers we have a better idea of what we need to deliver and how we’ll want to deliver it…I think now we’ll have the opportunity to make it a lot easier on both of us, you guys, and us,” Mr. Thompson said.