As you probably have heard, this past week most of us here in California finally got some clarity – we’re starting the school year all online.
In addition, our district put out a tentative schedule for our online school, though it still has to be negotiated with our union.
I decided to put some time into planning what my typical week might be, assuming our final schedule looks at least something like the draft one they put out.
I believe my plans for “equity” and not “equality,” should “pass muster,” so I think I can do five full classes a week with my two periods of English Language Learner students (officially, the schedule calls for me to do it three times each week with additional times for smaller group instruction). And, based on my experience in the spring when I did that and attendance was typically in the 90% range, it should work. However, I am also cognizant that my spring classes were thirty minutes each, while the fall ones would be closer to an hour.
My IB Theory of Knowledge classes are an entirely different kettle of fish. Officially, based on this schedule, I would teach each of those three periods twice a week, with one additional slot for smaller group instruction. I might or might not try to make that small group instruction time a full class, or keep it for small group instruction (I have a lot of ELLs in TOK this year, and that could be a time to provide them and others extra support).
But whatever happens with TOK (even if all my tentative plans end up being substantially changed), I’m not going to have anywhere near the time I have with them during a normal school year.
And that’s where the quote from today’s USA Today article at the top if this blog post comes in – I will need to figure out what not to cover.
That’s a challenge that will be facing many of us this year.
Some teachers, I suspect, especially in more advanced programs, might start making the mistake by piling up the homework in an effort to compensate for the lack of class time.
That would obviously be a big mistake, as I know some discovered last spring. I know at least five-to-ten percent of my TOK students in the spring suffered severe stress – in part due to large homework loads (our lead teachers and administrators stepped in to fix that problem).
I have to admit that when I started planning my TOK class yesterday, increasing homework was my first response to lack of class time before I caught myself.
So, I think we teachers have to carefully consider what to not cover this year, and it won’t be easy.
And it also seems to me that if schools or districts don’t already have an explicit homework policy restricting the amount that can be assigned, this is the time to do it.
And do it, like, now before teachers have done a lot of planning.
I’m not necessarily saying I agree with the recommendation you read a lot about – that high schoolers can handle two hours of homework each night. But, if you did, for example, at our school, that would mean that each class could be restricted to giving no more than twenty minutes of homework each day. Less might make even more sense.
Even if our students are only going to a live class two-or-three times a week, the rest of the time many will be caring for younger siblings or they will be in economic positions requiring them to continue working at jobs.
As the old community organizing adage goes, “We live in the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be.”
The quicker we can all get into that mindset, the better for our students….
What are you thoughts?