Coronavirus Remote Education, Dancing, and Life
Thoughts on dance in performance and education.
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.
• 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.
Day 154 Saturday August 22
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.
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.