Looking for Footholds UNDER the Waves – Planning for the Next School Year

What now? Screenshot of a small sandpiper facing a big wave, from Piper by Pixar, see below

 

Big waves coming right at you can be very scary.

Wave don’t tend to wait for you to plan, get ready, or even try a practice run, before making it crystal clear that you had better start swimming, NOW. OR ELSE.

I felt like the little sandpiper in the video  (see below) facing the big wave when the Covid-19 virus first hit the country and the school system.  Needless to say, I had not been really prepared for such a scenario, transitioning so quickly to complete distance learning with my Deaf and hard of hearing high-school students.  It was quite a jolt, to put it mildly.

I don’t want to feel that way again.

Trying to see what lies ahead… Naomi’s Photos

I’ve been told that one can’t prepare for the unknown, as none of us imagined preparing for a lockdown or for returning to school with masks and partial student attendance.

I’ve been told that since the unknown includes possibilities ranging from no distance learning at all to long periods of it, or some combination of partial F-2-F learning in small groups, it is futile to try to plan ahead.

In short, nobody knows what kind of wave will hit the school system in the future, when it will hit and how big its impact will be.

However, now that the school year is winding down (we’re in the exam- mode-only now in high-school) I feel that I have learned some useful things over the past months.

Like the little sandpiper in the video, while I can’t face down the big wave, I believe that by identifying the problems I was faced with and asking myself what can be done about them, I will find footholds to help me find my way under an unknown next wave. It’s not unrealistic at all to imagine that that whatever does come, distance learning will be the first thing the school system returns to.

The best place to start is always from you know, right?

So…

Time to work!
Naomi’s Photos

My first, most immediate problem was that my students did not have their books and notebooks with them at home– these are all kept in several boxes in the English Room!

I’m putting an end to that practice, even though I’ve been doing it for years and have found it to be useful with students in Special Education. Not only is it bad for sudden shifts to distance learning, but it is also not a good idea these days to have students handling other students’ books and notebooks as they rummage through the relevant boxes to pull out their personal ones.

Getting rid of the “book boxes” will bring back the problem of what to do when a student comes to class without his/her materials.

HOWEVER…

That is already a much smaller, identifiable problem that I can prepare for.  Particularly as I am already in the process of learning how to expand my use of a  “virtual notebook”, based on what I began doing during the distance learning.  For the short time that we were back at school after “lockdown”, some students simply continued using the online notebooks while in class which made the transition between home and class much easier, at least in regards to notebooks.  More information on my version of online virtual notebooks in an upcoming post.

Even if I make no meaningful progress dealing with any other issue except the one described above,  I will be better prepared for what may come when the next school year begins.

For some, offering “honey” simply isn’t enough…
Naomi’s Photos

The much more complex problem I had during distance learning had to do with those students who did not participate in the distance learning at all or did so extremely infrequently and inconsistently.  The reasons for this lack of participation, to the best of my knowledge, are varied.  I know of some, particularly girls, who took on the role of caring for the home and younger siblings. Other students come from homes where no one cares if they completely turn night into day and exclude themselves from all school-based activities (it’s worth noting that our high-school only began the virtual school day at 11:30 a.m, three and a half hours later than usual!).

These are not problems to be solved by preparing new materials or adding even more scaffolding to existing materials, which is my usual mode of action  – these students aren’t coming to “the table” so what’s on “the table” isn’t the issue. So how do I even approach such issues?

Little Steering Wheel… Naomi’s Photos

Writing this blog post has helped me focus my thoughts. Again, the place to start is to examine what is it I know and what I am able to find out.

The 12th graders just graduated. I haven’t met the new 10th graders yet.

But I DO know the students who will be my new 11th and 12th graders – these are the same students who experienced distance learning during a lockdown for the first time along with me!

So it seems that a good place to start is by creating a table with the following temporary titles for each column:

  • Name of  Student  (who did not participate)
  • Homeroom teacher’s preference (should I just update absences on the school system or does he/she want updates regarding attendance the same day?)
  • Is contacting the parents a viable option (with my students, sometimes it isn’t)
  • Have I had the opportunity to talk to the student Face -2- Face about the situation yet?
  • Any insights from teachers of other subjects who teach this student?

Have  I missed something?

Most likely I have.

But I certainly feel that now I know where to begin finding footholds, even under a wave.

It’s a good feeling.

Now watch the video!

 

Saturday’s Books: You win some, you lose some…

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I believe that this book is very popular and is (or will soon be ) a mini-series available for online streaming.

However, this book goes into my personal “you lose some” bin.

I truly agree that a great deal of credit should be given to Ng for well-rounded characters and a clever storyline that builds up – I have no criticism of any of that.

It’s just that I totally do not want to read about a wealthy family who appears to be a perfect one,   a family who has it all, and then all the hidden dark sides come out.  I’m not interested in the “let me see the pleasures the rich have and show me how those pleasures don’t make them happy” type of tale. They all boil down to the same thing, as far as I’m concerned.

I also do not enjoy reading about women fighting to uncover other women’s hidden secrets and harm them, or rich kids taking advantage of others without a second thought. While reading I began feeling that all that was missing was mud for the battle…

After reading more than a third of the book I wanted nothing more to do with any of the characters in the book and quit.  I didn’t even read the end of the book or a synopsis online to see how it turned out, I don’t want to know.

Not my cup of tea.

Watchful
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

I began to suspect I had been mistaken in my choice of the audiobook by the end of the first chapter. Nonetheless, I didn’t give up on it for quite a few hours more (out of the more than 15 hours of narration) before returning it to the library.

I stopped reading this book not only because of the aspects of the book I really disliked but also because of the parts I actually did like.

I know that is a very odd statement to make but bear with me for a minute.

The book begins by portraying a young, rich, American woman arriving in London two years after World War Two. While the author states and restates that she is different from her family because she loves mathematics and doesn’t behave like a fashionable young lady (according to her ever so fashionable mother), the amount of detail devoted to the clothes worn, not worn, previously worn (or should have been worn) was driving me up the wall.  Clothes lead to detailed discussions of other “womanly” subjects that our poor clever girl was unhappy with. I will spare you the details as I was also unhappy with them.

The plot moves between two-time frames, moving between the past and the “present”.  The parts relating to a network of female spies in Occupied France during World War Two is interesting and is what kept me from returning the book to the library much earlier. How such spies were recruited and trained, what they were expected to do –  certainly women to be respected! However, I don’t need to tell you that horrible things happened during that war. There is no lack of foreshadowing to indicate that harrowing experiences await the brave spies.

I realized that the combination of “aggravating” and “harrowing”, narrated in such a vivid way, word-by-word,  did not make me look forward to listening/reading the rest of the book.

So I didn’t read the rest of the book.

But for this one, I did read a synopsis.  I was curious, I admit. Some of my guesses were spot on. A synopsis was all the detail I needed in this case.

Just for the record – I’ll be posting about two books I  enjoyed soon. I am enjoying my current reads as well!

 

How to do VERY BADLY on your final exams!


Naomi’s Photos

My Deaf and hard of hearing students have their national matriculation exams in a few weeks.

For some of these 11th graders it will be their first matriculation exam, ever.

I felt they needed a reminder of the “do’s and don’ts” of taking such exams.  I felt it would be more effective and certainly more interesting to present the advice as ways to do poorly on the exam (or worse!) instead of suggestions and warnings.

Therefore, this slideshow is NOT intended for students to review on their own. It is meant as a way to go over important points with the students before the exam.

As always with my students, I tried to present these points in a visual manner, to enhance clarity.

NOTE: The tip regarding “sections on the exam that you don’t have to do” might not be relevant for teachers of students who do not get accommodations due to their hearing loss.

Wishing all our students the best of luck on their exams!