Look out, you may have missed it. While we teachers have been working overtime to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve just agreed to yet another work speed-up.

We’ve been “stepping up” and “doing what it takes” to continue to provide educational services, even when there has been NO funding for PPE, sanitation, or the technology we’ve been expected to use. We’ve been working unpaid overtime to pivot the classrooms we’d spent years and often thousands of dollars of our own money to convert from desks and bare walls into vibrant learning spaces to online instruction — sometimes literally overnight. We’ve “accommodated” parents’ demands to continue to provide in-person instruction — at the risk of our own health and lives — because some parents realized they couldn’t go without the free babysitting schools provide. At the same time, many teachers have simultaneously provided online instruction to accommodate the families and children who do not feel safe sending their children to school. They’ve further provided work packets for people who couldn’t access materials online, and provided asynchronous online options for students who couldn’t attend the class synchronously due to internet, work schedules, or family scheduling issues. All of these “accommodations” have required double, triple, or even quadruple the planning work. Then there has been the time spent troubleshooting glitchy internet systems (and students’ glitchy internet systems) with no tech support. After teaching both online and in-person, many teachers spend a second shift on planning, then a third shift on emails and phone calls to answer all the questions that come with 2–4 instructional formats, unreliable technology, and students who worked (or slept, or whatever) through the daytime class but then have questions in the evening — which means re-teaching the content to additional waves of students after we just spent a full day teaching. …


Woke.

Ally.

The terms are so tempting. But as a white person, I resist applying them to myself. First of all, I worry that they make promises that I’m not always sure I’ll be able to keep or live up to. Not because I don’t care or don’t want to. Not because I don’t aspire to be both of these. But I don’t know whether I’m always the perfect ally. How much of an “ally” can I even be from my cabin in a rural (and very white) part of Colorado? I can and do go to our Black Lives Matter rallies in our small downtown, where the few People of Color in our community speak to our masked and socially-distanced white townspeople about how their experiences haven’t always matched ours. These have been useful learning experiences for me, and I thank the speakers for helping me grow. But I’m not sure my attendance makes me an “ally.” It feels a bit like calling yourself a “Christian” because you go to church most Sundays. …


“Awww,” my sophomore class complained as I turned off the TV that was mounted in the corner of our classroom. “You can’t just turn it off now!”

I never even had the TV on in my classroom — not even before or after class. I didn’t even know what stations we could get on it. But that morning, as I was on the exit to get off the Turnpike and drive into the high school I taught at one exit outside of Boulder, Colorado, the KBCO Morning Show had gone through the two minutes of news that was interspersed with music and ads and then said, “Oh, and this just in. …


This was written as part of a two-part post. Part 1 is here.

There are things that we all know: Protecting our own and our neighbors’ health is personally responsible and is also part of being a citizen in a civil society. Our police officers should not be shooting and killing our own citizens who were innocent or who possibly committed a minor crime. Everyone has a right to vote and for their vote to be counted equally. There is no good reason why citizens should need to own and carry military-grade weapons in a peaceful society. For that matter, there is no reason for a democratic country to have a militarized police force. Our Constitution stated that “all men are created equal” and we now interpret that to be “all people.” That means EVERYONE, not just the people who look like us, sound like us, or are from communities or political groups we identify with. We all know this. These are American values that our society was based on and they are not debatable. …


Updating all of my materials for online instruction and posting them all to my campus’ course management system has made me think about how exhaustive my course materials need to be, and about all of the forms of student support I’m expected to provide.

“Woman and cat” meme. Woman: “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” Cat: It was in the syllabus.”
“Woman and cat” meme. Woman: “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” Cat: It was in the syllabus.”

Here is an incomplete list of all of the steps I need to as I prepare a class. I have to do this for each class, each term. This includes more “normal” terms when I teach traditional, in-person classes.

  • Make sure the information is on our course management system, so I can show that expectations for each assignment were clear and were readily-accessible.

Do this so that no one in class can say they didn’t get the directions.

  • Also explain all of the directions in class. Remind students in every class of what upcoming assignments are due and of what to do for each assignment. …

This will be the first term when I’ve taught all of my undergraduate courses online. I even took on a freshman-level class (“first year” in my college’s new parlance) that is at its cap of 30 students.

My college is focused on opening in-person, but I’m in a higher-risk category, and I also predict that our “in-person” courses are going to end up being online or hybrid. So I opted to teach all three of my classes online. Since I’d already taught three online and hybrid courses for graduate students, I have some comfort with creating online courses. Last term, when everyone else was panicking in March, my graduate students I just kept on keeping on. I honestly think I’ll be able to cultivate more interaction and collaboration in an online course than I would in a classroom or outdoor tent where everyone is sitting six feet apart, mumbling through masks, and squinting to see what is projected onto the screen in the front of the room. Nevertheless, our college’s in-person focus has meant that most people are focused on getting students into the dorms, creating a socially-distanced new-student orientation, mask and distancing protocols, COVID-19 testing before students are allowed on campus, getting students to log their symptoms on an app everyday, etc. Our Instructional Technology Department’s collection of tutorials for technology skills and our library’s quick turnaround with digitizing necessary resources have been a lifesaver. …


When I was in 8th grade (in 1985), my mom and I went to Japan for three weeks in October. It was field trip season, so many of the sites we visited were full of school groups. As an 8th grader from California, I couldn’t help but notice the hats. Each class wore the same hats while they were on trips, so places like Mt. Fuji were awash in waves of yellow hats, white hats, red hats, and blue hats. Even as an 8th grader, I remember thinking that this would never fly in the United States. I couldn’t even imagine what would happen if our school tried to make every kid in my class wear a hat for any length of time, but I imagined that many would end up getting thrown, getting lost, getting crumpled into backpacks or back pockets, getting thrown out of school bus windows, or being worn in any way besides on people’s heads. …


There is a viral post going around called “Be Happy You Weren’t Born in 1900.” With all due respect to our elders, I don’t think they have anything on the generation that was born around 2000, who are on the cusp between the Millennials and Gen Z.

1999 — the year before they were born — Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill 11 people at Columbine H.S. — ushering in an era of school shootings and making them grow up during an era where “active shooter drills” will be a regular part of their experience once they enter school. …


The content for new genres is usually grafted from old genres. Many of the first written texts — ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, to Ireland’s The Tain, to India’s Vedas — were transcriptions of epic poems that were told orally, sometimes for hundreds or even thousands of years before they were written down. But what is entertaining when told over an entire winter — or even years — can seem a bit slow and repetitive to a person reading it in a book, particularly with the repetition and mnemonic devices (such as Homeric epithets like “white-armed Hera”). …

About

Writing on the Wall

Suzie Null is a former middle and high school teacher and current professor of Teacher Education. Follow her on Twitter at WritingontheWall @NullSet16

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