Middle and high school students return to school buildings under an extraordinary set of circumstances. In 4J this means small groups of students will sit six feet apart in classrooms, wearing masks. The rest of the students will Zoom in from home. The single classroom teacher will simultaneously attend to those in the room and those on-screen, in most cases using their one district-provided laptop.
If you have ever facilitated an interactive multimedia experience via video conference, you know that the task requires close attention to voices and what is written in the chat to ensure all participants are seen and heard. If you have ever hosted a group of young people in physical space, you know that interactivity is important and that they deserve full present attention. Trying to achieve both at once is unlikely to be satisfying for anyone.
What is being asked of teachers and building administrators right now is unreasonable. They have been given a set of parameters and are being told to figure it out. There is no coordinated plan. As this scenario unfolds in the coming weeks, I encourage the rest of us — parents, community members and others who don’t have direct experience with what is happening in classrooms — to apply our deepest compassion to what teachers are being asked to do. Please be kind to the teachers in your kids’ lives and in your social circles.