As we enter a pandemic-shaped school year, one of many questions we teachers will need to deal with is “What are we NOT going to cover this year?”

We’re clearly not going to have as much live classroom time with our students, and we need to resist the urge to load-up our students with homework to “make-up” all that lost time.

Let’s look at things realistically.

Based on what happened in the spring, and based on the conversations I’ve been having with our students over the summer, it seems to me that a majority of our students will be spending at least twenty-hours a week on providing care/school support for younger siblings OR/AND working at a job to help support their family – either under or over the table.

Research on student experiences during the spring is sparse, but it seems clear that many felt overwhelmed by school assignments and stress, particularly in Black and Latino communitiesSeveral of my students wrote about these concerns in Ed Week. This, of course, makes sense since those communities have been disproportionally affected by the health and economic impacts of the epidemic.

Research is very mixed on how much homework high school students “should” receive during normal times, and what that homework should look like.

Given these experiences and uncertainties, then,  how much time should we expect our students to spend on each of our classes, especially on the high school level?

Personally, I’ve concluded – at least for now – that I should be able to expect my students to spend a total of five hours each week on my high school class – including any online time they spend with me in Zoom classes or individual video conferences.

If every teacher in our school followed a similar guide (and I have absolutely no power to make that happen), that would mean students would be expected to spend thirty hours each week on school.

However, that plan would not preclude teachers – including me – from providing supplemental/enrichment activities for students who are particularly motivated or in less stressful environments.  Students will be able to earn an “A” in my class by just doing the five hours each week of work.  But I will freely offer extra credit for these other optional activities to either “make-up” for lower assessments in the five-hours a week work or to build up a student’s score – in normal times it’s not unusual for some students in my classes to have 120% or 130% in the gradebook.

One added advantage I have is that this blog, and our class blogs, are visited by many students and teachers around the world, and I’ve been able to showcase student work from my classes and from other classes at our school over the years.  There’s nothing like an authentic audience to increase student motivation!

What are your thoughts about how many hours we should expect students to “do school” during this pandemic environment?