Last year, in 2019, I graduated from the University of Washington and moved to New York to become a teacher via Teach For America. I spent the Summer of 2019 training to become an educator in the city, focusing on learning about the landscape of the work I’d be doing, along with the gritty details of the job I’d be performing. I entered the 2019-20 school year as an educator, grad school student, and fledgling New Yorker with an understanding that the life of a teacher – let alone a first-year one – is one that requires a willingness to feel deeply incompetent at times. Little did I know just how far into the deep end I’d land.
I’m someone who has the blessing to have left high school with a decent understanding of my ideals and convictions: it’s something that was at the core of the ISC. The issue is that every person’s profile ideals differs – unsurprising, I know – and that the interface between your ideals and…everyone else’s is often jagged and uneven. When the rubber hits the road, the road’s got potholes.
I could meditate on this for a long time, but I just want to quickly reflect on my experience in the last week, where the NYC DOE shut down its schools for the second time this year.
Schools closing in March was frustrating. We were not prepared, the closure was bungled, students were lost, and the cracks in the district’s supposed commitment to equity were glaringly exposed. We learned that a lack of communication paired with the chaos and fear of a traumatic event caused issues with parents, students, and teachers without a sense of direction, and more tangibly, without a sense of what was even minimally expected. It was a mess.
But perhaps the lesson wasn’t actually learned. In March, we were notified the day before that schools were shutting down, not giving teachers the time to plan new lessons, and not giving families the time to find new childcare solutions (not to mention technology solutions). This week, we were notified the day before that schools were shutting down, not giving teachers the time to plan new lessons, and not giving families the time to find new childcare solutions (not to mention technology solutions).
The expectation, I guess, is that administrators, teachers, students, parents, and families always, at all times, have codified plan C’s, D’s, and, uh, F’s. It is beyond frustrating.
And here I sit, looking at the rest of the country, some school districts considering pivoting from remote to “hybrid” learning, with the perspective and experience to say that hybrid learning does have its benefits, yes, but also that it is terrible, ineffective design.