Friday, January 1, 2021

Coronavirus Remote Education, Dancing, and Life

Day 280, Friday, January 1, 2021
Happy New Year?

Yes, Happy New Year? With a Question Mark? Because I am not so sure about it all yet. 

So, I haven't written in this blog since the start of the school year. Mostly because I have been overwhelmingly busy dealing with teaching 25 Pre-K students remotely. Every day my lesson planning takes about 3 -5 hours depending on how involved I get into creating the slide show (lesson) for the day. It needs to speak, not only to my students, but to their parents/caregivers, as well, as they play an important role in the process of  being online and offline throughout the day.

With the beginning of the New Year and a week off to have a chance to breathe, I felt I was able to reflect on what has transpired and where we are right now. More importantly, I had my first dream of the New Year and I woke up out of it in a hopeful but melancholy mood. I felt it was important to record. So, here goes....

The Background...

This year I am teaching Pre-K remotely. I am teaching in all subject areas, not just dance. That said, because of my strong arts background, many of my lessons are arts based, making use of all of the arts to teach a lesson. In all my years of teaching I have never taught just one grade exclusively. 

The Dream...

In my dream, I am at a school that ranges from Pre-k to 12th grade. I am the dancing Pre-K teacher and haven't taught beyond that age group for sometime. As I walk around the school I see kids I have taught in the past in all age groups. They hang out with their friends and take on the characteristics of the age that they are, from Elementary, to Middle, to High school. The older they get, the more removed and/or  aloof they appear to me. I do not have many interactions with them despite having taught everyone of them in the past. These students are a mixture of the students I have taught over the years and are very vivid to me. So much so that I remember each of their names. 

It is a typical Coronavirus school day and everyone is masked and socially distanced. I am teaching in person, not remote, so I am able to travel around the entire school throughout the day. As I am walking to go to my next class, I come across a group of High school students, sitting at desks, 6 feet apart from each other and bored out of their minds. I know all of them by name and have taught them at some point in their school experience.

My first impulse is to just walk by and not even acknowledge them. I am just another teacher going about my business of teaching Pre-K, which is very removed from their experience.

My second impulse, which is truer and closer to my being, is to approach them and say hello. As I approach them , I can see that they are a bit uneasy, and cautious. They get that look of "who are you and why are you coming over to us". One of them starts to say, "Are you coming over to us as a Teacher or... before she can get the next word out I say, No! As an Adult to talk to you and to see how you are doing as a High Schooler through all of this.

No sooner are the words out of my mouth that the entire demeanor of the group changes. They approach me, they ask me, "How are you doing, Mr. J?" "What's happening?" How much they miss not having me as their teacher. We hug, or fist bump, or slap each other on the shoulder, forgetting all COVID 19 social protocols. They become more or less like little kids again remembering all the fun times we had in dance classes.

I WAKE UP! Tearing, Longing, Sadly Joyous! I tried to go back to sleep but I couldn't. I knew I had to get up and write it down. It kept playing on my mind as my first dream of the New Year and maybe a sign of what is to come.

So I am wishing everyone a New Year in which all that you dream, and all that you hope for, becomes a reality. That we reconnect again with those that are closest to us. That by taking the first step or I guess I should say our "Second Impulse" we can cause a change in others.
That this year will be a Safer and Truer year than the one we are leaving behind.

I have no delusions that it may get even worse before it gets better, but seeing it through Truer eyes gives us the ability to hope and dream of what is really possible and what we still need to do to make those hopes and dreams a reality.

So here is to a "Truer New Year"












   


 



Thursday, August 27, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day 154  Thursday August 26

What's On my Mind! STRIKE!

So the last thing I wanted to hear was that the UFT is considering a strike. That said if the Mayor and the Chancellor insist on forcing us to enter unsafe school buildings I really don't see that we have any choice. For those of you who may not understand all that is going on I am going to post it here.

 

We had a union meeting with the teachers at my school and our Union Rep. It was very sobering.

Here is what has been happening:


First: What Happened

The union has been pushing the mayor and DOE to discuss what would happen in the fall. Over 100 UFT members have passed away from Covid-19 since March because the mayor and chancellor did not prioritize our health and safety. This is completely unacceptable! For many months the UFT has been pushing for meetings with the DOE. The city didn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency. Discussions only began in July. UFT has made many suggestions. We are not seeing the movement that is necessary for a safe reopening. Last Wednesday, Michael Mulgrew held a press conference. He discussed 3 demands that MUST be put in place if schools are to reopen.

3 DEMANDS

• SUPPLIES (PPE and ventilation)

• Detailed plan describing procedure relating to Covid issues.

• These protocols are not in place as of today.

• Training the Building Response Team(BRT) and having the

BRT communicate the Covid protocols to the members.

• RIGOROUS TRACING AND TESTING PLAN.

Second: The UFT’s Position

• We are ready and willing to re-enter school buildings in

September, but ONLY if they are safe.

• The UFT believes the city is NOT ready to open its doors to

its 100,000 + employees and 1 million + students.

• There are too many unanswered questions related to health

and safety protocols.

• CSA, The New York State Nurses Association, the NAACP

AND 31 members of the New York City Council all have

proposed a postponement of in person instruction this fall.

The UFT is prioritizing the health and safety of ALL of its members.

• There are still 359 schools without a nurse!

Third: My Opinion

I have an accommodation to teach remotely because of my age but that doesn't mean that I don't care about the situation and my fellow colleagues, children, and families, not only in my school but throughout the entire NYC school system.


And just for the record teaching remotely takes a lot more time for both planning and being live with my students. There were days when I was working 15 hours easily al the way to the end of June and a few days after.


Everyone needs to get behind the Union on this. We need 100% backing to make this work. We have the strongest Teacher's Union in the Country. All eyes are on us. We cannot fail at this juncture. We must show real leadership and the will to see it through.


If you are a NYC public school teacher you need to be in touch with your Union rep and get all the info you need to really understand what is at stake.


If you are a parent, do you really want to send your child into a school building that does not have all of the protocols in place. The Union is fighting for their and your safety, as well.


For the general public: Teachers do not want to get out of going to work. We want more than anything to be back in our buildings with our students and colleagues and we are willing to put up with masks, and distancing, and testing, and a hybrid model but if it is not safe, if we have to close down buildings every other week, if schedules keep changing because students keep opting to go remote, what is the point?


At the very least we should start school remote and delay the actual opening of the buildings until all the UFT demands are met for all schools not just a handful.


I have repeatedly posted here and sent e-mails to all of the officials from the Governor to my local Borough President of what I thought may be a plan of action for the fall. With the exception of students with disabilities and students who need services, everyone should be remote.

 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

 

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day 154  Saturday August 22

Open Letter to Our Public Leaders
Dear Governor, Mayor, School Chancellor, Borough Presidents, and City Council Members,
As a Dance Educator for the NYC DOE there is nothing I want more than to be back in the classroom with my students and having them take part in activity that engages them physically, cognitively, emotionally, and artistically. That said, as the Director of a Summer Arts program at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) , I was able to do this all online with a blended model. While not ideal, it was successful and a good model for something that we may need to do for a short period of time. It is important to keep in mind that it is temporary and when we are ready and feel safe we will return to the classroom.   

I totally believe that I can be successful in a remote environment but it takes a lot of planning and thoughtful use of the online platform, especially for elementary age children. We as teachers should be getting ready for that now and not thinking of it as an emergency situation. It requires a different way of thinking about your classroom and the ability to be facile in the online environment.  That can only come from sufficient planning and preparation. What we should be doing right now is planning with tech and professional development support and not this back and forth in-person, not in person, part live, part remote, and/or full remote.  

How do I as a teacher plan effectively for all those scenarios and how can students feel any sense of stability and routine if in person education can be interrupted at any time when someone tests positive in your classroom. As a specialist instructor, who will be traveling from class to class for up to 25 classes a week it is possible that I would need to quarantine and go remote on a weekly basis. 

After discussing this with a number of colleagues, I think that students with disabilities that get mandated services should be given priority. They should be in person in the building as much as possible and remote part of the time. All other students go remote full time. Most schools would be able to accommodate their population of students who get services while practicing  all of the CDC guidelines for social distancing and using medical grade PPE. It may very well create an ideal environment for those children as they would get the attention they need without worry of transmission due to exposure.  

All teachers go remote but from their own classrooms. They would have access to all of their materials and would be the only person in their room with all of the support from staff that they need. All teachers would work on the same platform so students will have consistency across all classes. 

We need to do the right thing for the safety of  students, staff, families, and our community. To do that we need to start planning now, actually yesterday, but it is never too late.

Instead of forcing teachers to threaten a strike, why not do the right thing now and prevent further confusion and animosity. At the very least listen to the Principals when they ask for more time or otherwise go fully remote with the plan I mention above or a plan similar to it.

Sincerely
Andrew Jannetti
The Dancing Jedi
P.S. 79 Francis Lewis Elementary  
 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

 

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day 137  Tuesday August 4


Well, it has been over a month since I last wrote in this blog and, in light of what the city is planning for the start of the school year, I felt it was necessary 
to chime in with my opinion.

 

But before I do that I want to mention that I just finished running a totally Virtual Arts program for the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX). It was a blended model with both live and taped content that was synchronous and asynchronous. We were charting new territory and I learned an immense amount about what was both possible and successful in online education for elementary aged children. I was also amazed to see how our youngest learners were able to adapt to this environment with the proper leadership from their instructor.

While being online is not ideal for most of us in the arts, I do feel as a temporary measure for this particular time, that there are ways to make the online experience very successful and not sacrifice learning in the process.

 

Which brings me to NYC, Mayor DeBlasio, and the Department of Education (DOE). This past week the DOE rolled out its plans for a blended learning models. There are a number of different scenarios and the idea is to give students as much time live in the classroom as possible while following CDC guidelines for protection from transmission of the Coronavirus. From what I can tell the only plan that will work and at the same time keep students and staff safe is totally remote learning.

 

The scenarios of blended learning with rotating schedules are at the very least laughable and at the worst a total nightmare inviting all types of chaos to ensue from figuring out child care to outbreaks of transmission and large group quarantining of students and teachers. While some of these sound good on paper, I have to wonder if the everyday logistics have really been thought out. In my school, depending on the size of the classroom, there would be 9 to 15 students in a room with one teacher. If it is a class that require two teachers there would need to be less students. Students will be required to be at their desks, which are 6 feet apart, and wear a mask all day. They would be served lunch in the classroom and any Specialist Teachers (Art, Dance, Music, Theater, Technology, Science, and Gym) would be traveling from class to class. Everything will happen in that 1 room.

 

So in this scenario, what happens when a 6 year old needs to use the bathroom. Will an adult monitor be in the hallway to accompany them and make sure that they get to the bathroom and are following all of the sanitizing protocols. I would not be able to just send them with a partner as I might usually under normal circumstances.

 

And what about small group instruction?  Which the blended model says I will need to do. Am I going to push 4 desks together or have the students yell at each other from 6 feet apart while wearing a mask? If I were virtual, I could put them in breakout rooms and have them discuss or partake in an activity together and never have to worry about contact. So do I only do small group instruction when we are remote, because I will be remote at times with a class even if I am in person.

 

As a Dance Educator there is nothing I want more than to be back in the classroom with my students and having them take part in activity that engages them physically, cognitively, emotionally, and artistically. That said, as the Director of a Summer Arts program at BAX , I was able to do this all online with a blended model. While not ideal, it was successful and a good model for something that we may need to do for a short period of time. It is important to keep in mind that it is temporary and when we are ready and feel safe we will return to the classroom.

 

I totally believe that I can be successful in a remote environment but it takes a lot of planning and thoughtful use of the online platform, especially for elementary age children . We as teachers should be getting ready for that now and not thinking of it as an emergency situation. It requires a different way of thinking about your classroom and a facility in the online environment that can only come from sufficient planning and preparation. What we should be doing right now is that planning with tech and professional development support and not this crazy in-person, not in person, part live, part remote, and/or full remote.

 

How do I as a teacher plan effectively for all those scenarios and how can students feel any sense of stability and routine if in person education can be interrupted at any time when someone tests positive in your classroom. As a specialist instructor, who will be traveling from class to class for up to 25 classes a week it is possible that I would need to quarantine and go remote on a weekly basis.

 

Personally, after discussing this with a number of colleagues, I think that students with disabilities that get mandated services should be given priority. They should be in person in the building as much as possible and remote part of the time. Everyone else should go remote full time. Most schools would be able to accommodate their population of students who get services while practicing  all of the CDC guidelines. It may very well create an ideal environment for those children as they would get the attention they need without worry of transmission due to exposure.

 

I was listening to NPR today and they were interviewing High School students from different parts of the country and one of them said that they hope we learn something from this about the inadequacies of our educational system and that we may need to rethink how we educate students in this country.

 

Just imagine if we limited classes to a maximum of 18 (which is what we do with Pre-K) having to switch to 9 students in a class in person would not be as big of an issue. More importantly how much more could we accomplish with our students if we changed our  perspective on class size and professional development. Studies have shown over and over again that size matters and when coupled with meaningful, productive professional development for teachers, student learning improves dramatically. Maybe a revamping of the entire system is what is needed and as a society we need to finally value education that goes beyond producing a product and produces creative, caring, productive, and engaging individuals with a social conscious.

 

I will leave you with that thought to think over and hopefully ,in the meantime, our officials will come to their senses and declare remote learning for all until we have a better handle on this devastating pandemic.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day 102  Tuesday June 30



I know I haven’t written in this blog in quite awhile. The last time we were only at day 47 of being home working remotely and dealing with the isolation and unknown of COVID-19. Work became overwhelming and then George Floyd happened.

As if we weren’t dealing with a lot already, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, caught on video, was yet again another disturbing example of the social, economic, and racial inequity at the way in which justice is handed out in this country. It ignited not just country wide but worldwide protests and has forced us as a country to take a serious look at how we police our own citizens and specifically our African American citizens.

It is distressing, disturbing, and exciting all at the same time. Not since the 60’s have I seen such an out pouring of directed and focused anger that has the possibility of becoming an effective force for change and for the betterment of us as a society.

On a personal note, in the middle of all of this, a very dear friend lost her husband to his fight with cancer. He was a retired Police Officer and one of the First Responders at 9/11. He died on May 25 at age 56, just a few days before George Floyd. Larry was a great guy and I am sure would have been appalled at seeing the videotape of George Floyd being choked to death.

Dealing with all of this at the same time was truly overwhelming. Living in Downtown Manhattan I was witness to demonstrations everyday, helicopters flying overhead at all hours. Lafayette street is a direct thoroughfare from City Hall to Union Square,  both places of many demonstrations, not to mention the Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Brooklyn Bridges which all converge on my neighborhood. To say the least, it has been disheartening to figure out what to do next. Despite the fact that I continued to teach, as best I could online to my 525 students, I basically fell into a deep depression. Everyday was a struggle to stay focused, to make sense of what was going on around me, to take care of both myself and my spouse as we continue to navigate what puts us at risk during the pandemic.

Just before all of this happened I had made a short video of “life while sheltering in” and while I had no idea where we would be today I end the video on a note of hope, the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I hesitated to share it because in the light of what occurred immediately after I finished it , it seemed premature and a little na├»ve. Just as I was beginning to think we were coming close to seeing the other side of this pandemic, we were thrown into a whole other series of events that set me back in my hopeful aspirations.

That said, I do feel hopeful. I am encouraged that New York and New Jersey seem to be doing the right  thing when it comes to opening up businesses in our states. I am encouraged that  the voices of protestors are being heard in a way that they have not been for sometime, dare I say since the 60’s. And I am encouraged that many people are waking up to the fact that we need to practice our right to vote and rid ourselves of one of the worst Administrations during my lifetime. There is a sea change coming and I see a tidal wave that will rid us of every trace of them and in the words of Taylor Swift “gone was every trace of you, that’s when I was finally clean.”

Here is a link to the video I created over a month ago. I still think it is somewhat simplistic but I do see a light at the end of this tunnel. Enjoy the documentation of the "Many Faces of Sheltering In"




Thursday, May 7, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day Thirty Five & Forty Seven April 25 – May 7

Thursday, May 7th

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything here.
MY intention was to post something every day but that has been almost impossible to do unless I do what I am doing right now: Up at 4am and still working. It’s is getting crazier than ever.

ON that note I am devoting this blog entry to Thank A Dance Teacher Day
#ThankADanceTeacherDay @NDEOdance

Thank a Dance Teacher Day
Hmm.. Where to begin. There are so many to thank so I am just going to start listing.
My very first dance teachers who started me on this journey were my College Dance Teachers Patricia Nave and Linda Roberts. Without that initial push and their continued support, I would not be where I am today. Thank You!

However that was just the beginning. What happened after I finished college was just as thrilling and exciting. I discovered a dancing family that consisted of dance teachers from all parts of the dance world. They all had an impact on me. Here is a list as best as I can put it together. Nancy Meehan, Mary Spalding, Erick Hawkins, Cathy Ward, Laura Pettibone, Cynthia Reynolds, Cindy Green, Zvi Gotheiner, Murray Louis, Lynn Simonson, Katiti King, Te Perez, Diane McCarthy, and JoDe Romano (Flamenco). Then there are my dancing partners, who taught me as much about dancing and teaching as any teacher did. Lets see… Lauren Naslund, Joan Cansdale, Charmaine Warren, Andi Wirz, Osamu Uehara, Loretta DiBianca-Fois, Joan Stamm, Jean Morgan, and Jane Kornbluh. My past students, some of whom have become dance teachers themselves. The lessons they taught and continue to teach me about myself as a dancer and dance teacher are invaluable. A partial list: Sarah Wong, Rachel Lane, Nadia Tykulsker, Jessica Lewis, Teresa Schmitt, Stephanie Caputo. And finally my fellow dance teachers in the  NYC Department Of Education, who teach me something new every day: Kerrianne Cody, Shirlene Blake, Valerie Ramsey, Debra Sabesan, Penny Hpinsdorf, Rebecca Cyr and my compadres at NDEO Men In Dance: Yoav Kaddar, Christopher Rutt, and Barry Blumenfeld.


There are others for sure and there will be more to come because it is really about community, not just that one teacher. Yes there was one teacher who inspired me but without the others that initial support, that faith in me, the recognition of something that I had that was still to be developed, would never have developed. It is really about community, about family and that’s the rub, because my very first dance teachers in college were not really my first dance teachers. My first dance teachers were my family members. 

My mom, who taught me some social dances so I could dance with her at weddings  My grandmother who taught me some traditional Italian folk dances, at weddings. My cousin Lisa, who was my childhood dancing partner as we made up entertainments to put on for the family at big family events. But even they were not my very first dance teachers. My Dad was my very first dance teacher, when I was still a toddler and he would say to me “cheek to cheek’ and I would stick out my cheek and he would pick me up and put his cheek next to mine and dance me around the room. I must have loved it because every picture of me with him doing that I am totally thrilled. That’s what my “first” dance teachers in college saw. That toddler thrilled to be dancing in his father’s arms in a room full of family.

Which brings me to my initial point that it is about community. Without that community of dancers and dance teachers I would not be where I am today. So thank you, thank you to all those dance teachers intentional and accidental, for teaching me about the importance of family and community because I (we) need that now more than ever. 

Peace Out
The Dancing Jedi