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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Unexpected Realities of Hybrid Teaching

Amidst the ongoing covid19 pandemic, I have been teaching elementary music in a hybrid model for about a month now. In our district, families were given the option of keeping children home in a fully online distance learning program or sending them to school in a socially-distanced classroom 4 days a week. I teach both the online learners and the in-person student simultaneously by having students join my classes through Zoom. For any teachers anticipating going back to some form of in-person teaching, here are some of the things I didn't expect before I started.

1. Technology Fails

Over the course of the pandemic I have become somewhat of a tech guru- I'm not sure how, because I've never considered myself a "techie" person, but nonetheless I find myself often being the one explaining how to use certain programs or solving tech problems for my colleagues. I spent most of my summer figuring out and testing the best solutions for how to make this hybrid situation work. I came in with a plan. All of that went out the window when the wifi at school went down.

One of the things I've learned about hybrid teaching is that I have to have at least 3 backup plans for how I'm going to deliver my lesson if the technology fails, because it will. My computer died in the middle of the day, I got kicked out of my zoom in the middle of a 1st grade lesson, taught an entire day without wifi, had both Google Classroom and Zoom report massive outages across our entire region... the list goes on. Always have another way to deliver the lesson, and expect to have to change course multiple times a day. Be patient!

2. Loads of Laundry

...and by loads I mean lots. After a few positive cases in my building, I quickly got serious about our school nurse's advice and started changing clothes after school every day, and I wash them all after each use. My two daughters who are learning in-person also have a different mask for each day of the week that need to be washed every week. That means every weekend I'm now doing 3-4 loads of laundry for just my small family, when I used to do 1, maybe 2! 

3. No More Skirts

My staple teaching outfit used to be dresses and skirts with pockets (I wrote a whole post about my favorite teacher clothes here). Not this year! Because I am on a cart, I carry my cell phone in my back pocket to be able to check email and send messages to families with our communication app. Because I am wearing a mask and don't want to project my voice, I have a voice amplification system, and the speaker hooks onto my front pocket. And I'm walking around the building with my cart all day, getting down on the floor to plug into the outlets in each classroom. My dresses and skirts also aren't as sturdy as my pants to hold up to weekly washings, so it's pants and t-shirts every day for me! 

4. Parent Communication

Because parents of distance learners have to be so much more directly involved in their children's education, I have had a lot more frequent and direct contact with my students' families. I also switched from handing out physical "happy notes" to students at the end of class to sending a message to a student's family on our parent communication app. It has actually been really great to connect more with the families of my students- something I hope will continue after this pandemic is over!

5. Low Energy

I was shocked the first few days at how quickly the kids and I would lose steam! I think it's a combination of stress, the mental energy required to do everything differently, and the physical toll of wearing a mask all day. I have had to really tone down the energy I expend when I'm teaching, although I think the students and I are also starting to adapt now that we've been doing this for a while.

If you have been teaching in a hybrid model, I'd love to hear other things you've experienced that you didn't expect! And if you're heading back to in-person teaching soon, feel free to leave any questions in the comments below. It is a lot to adjust to but we are adjusting and adapting and making it work!

To see more posts with ideas and tips for pandemic teaching, click below:

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