We decided on Virtual Schooling

In the end we decided not to send the kids to in-person school in the fall.

In our last post, we’d already decided not to send DC1.  The risks are larger at the high school level and all but one of hir chosen classes is going to be offered online (Programming II will have to be swapped out with either AP Physics 1 or AP Statistics).  DC1 was also on board with this, as zie is an introvert and while sociable enough in person doesn’t even know some of hir friend’s last names and certainly doesn’t have any contact information.

DC2 ended up being a harder decision, but we finally brought the question to hir.  Zie asked what virtual schooling was going to be like, so we showed hir the district webpage.

While there, Zie also looked at how in-person schooling was going to be different while zie was there, which we hadn’t really thought about.  Zie didn’t like that zie wouldn’t be allowed to play on the playground with friends from other classes.  Zie didn’t like having to wear a mask all the time.  Zie was a little weirded out by the going to the restroom as a group rather than when zie had to go.  Zie also didn’t see much point if zie couldn’t go to after-school with hir main friends.  Zie pointed out that in-person school didn’t sound as fun as usual.

Then zie added up the amount of time spent doing school virtually (90+90, that’s 3 hours, right?) and liked that it was low.  Zie liked the flexibility.  Zie liked being able to eat whenever and not wear a mask and use the restroom whenever.    Zie also found out that at least one of hir good friends is going virtual and had hopes for zoom and maybe even Minecraft realms on a regular basis like we’ve been doing this summer.  (The four of them piloted out Minecraft Realms for DC2’s birthday party with a couple weeks of one-on-one playing in anticipation so that hir two friends who weren’t already immersed in Minecraft could learn how to play the computer version.  One amazing thing is that zie can even play Minecraft nicely with her frenemy(!)  They’re a little snippy at each other but nowhere near as much as usual.)

Adding that DC2 will still be considered Dual Language (meaning instructions and lectures will be in Spanish alternating weeks) and will still have GT (zie promises not to be a jerk on zoom like last year), it seems like virtual will be the best option.  We’re going to have to figure out how to make it work with our work schedules, which is always the problem, but at least there will be less worry about illness.  And DC1 will likely be getting more sleep than last year during in-person high school (hopefully).

And as the weather gets less hot we’ll be able to kick them out of the house again.  Other online people are setting up beautiful welcoming home offices for their kids.  Maybe we can set something up in the backyard instead.  I wonder how far out the wifi reaches…

23 Responses to “We decided on Virtual Schooling”

  1. bogart Says:

    I’m glad to know that you and each DC were able to reach a decision that you all … well, I won’t say “feel happy about,” but at any rate, feel is a good choice from among the available set. Yes, it does seem like comparing what in-person school is going to be like *this year* to whatever virtual options are being presented, makes sense. And I have to admit that in addition to looking at “plans for in-person school in our district this year” I tossed in a “high likelihood of suddenly being told school is going 100% virtual for the next X weeks” in that consideration (since realized, in that our K-12 is starting fully remote for multiple weeks, in the latest iteration, despite having hoped to start with an in-person option available, and now hoping to have some in-person options at some point during the year).

    Any change to what your university is planning? Mine just rolled out news about new restrictions/constraints/limits on who will be allowed on campus, when and for what, as well as some more information about measures to protect health/detect illness, and they are more restrictive than previously (unsurprising). I’ve started following Linsey Marr, Richard Corsi, and among others on Twitter, and will not feel good about my employer’s plans until such time as they start providing (at least) building-by-building information on HVAC systems, air (re)circulation, filters and such.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, originally they’d said they’d be updating all buildings a/c and now they’ve said they’re only updating some. Originally they said they’d do a lot of stuff that apparently reality has made them walk back on.

      My department head did change class size limits to match the room capacities of classrooms in the end instead of trying to make all sections equal size, though we will likely still get overflows once international students are allowed to register.

  2. retirebyforty Says:

    I’m pretty sure we’ll go with the online option too. It’s not a huge deal for us. The district’s tentative plan is 2 days at school per week for each group. Taking our son out would help reduce the number of students in class. I guess we’ll see what happens.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      At my in-laws in the midwest they’re doing half days 5 days/week for each group, which seems less safe than two days/week in person just from a who is breathing the air standpoint.

      It will be an interesting year.

      Meanwhile I’m trying to figure out how to adapt my classes to not being able to give small group work or get close enough to help students figure out what they’re doing wrong. I wish we had clickers (and that I knew how to use them), but we’re not set up for that. The other prof for this class just does straight lecture from her podium which adapts better. I may ask them to do breakout rooms in zoom in the class itself, but from previous experience I know our wifi isn’t really strong enough to handle that.

      • Katherine Says:

        I am also trying to figure out how to do group work in the new normal. All the classrooms I teach in have whiteboards on 3 sides (which I have always used a lot) so I think I can have groups work in a socially distanced way with one person writing on the board at a time (and disinfecting markers/board in between students). I hope to teach in one of our recently remodeled rooms, which have two wireless projectors that can each independently project 4 different computers to them, so I think it will work to have students do some socially distanced team programming in my stats class.

        Could you get/make a set of cheap melamine personal whiteboards? I have several math colleagues who have done that for group work in the past. If each student had one, they could show each other (and you!) their work from a safe distance.

        For clickers, have you considered polleverywhere? I have used it lightly in the past and will probably do so more heavily this semester. It’s free, relatively easy to use, and can be used on any device.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I was thinking that I couldn’t use the side boards because they won’t have the plexi-glass protection, but maybe I can… I think maybe not though because there’s not a full 6 feet from the side boards to the student seats. We’re not allowed to actually look at our classrooms yet because of painting or something. Plus I’m not sure how much of the room the video streaming for people self-quarantining (or being randomly kicked out) is going to catch. Your classroom sounds pretty awesome.

        One of the group work problems is that most of my exercises are in Stata. So they could zoom it pretty easily probably. I’ve been assuming with the additional frictions there won’t be much time for them to do boardwork, but maybe that would work. I wonder if the difficulty with personal whiteboard is worth it (given that ideally they’d each have their own, but likely they’ll forget to bring them). I suppose I could ask the department head if she’d be willing to buy them for students since it might be useful for the econ classes as well…

        I will look into polleverywhere. Our uni pushes clickers, but you’re right there are other solutions. ARGH this is going to be so much work.

        I did figure out this morning how to do my first day of class’s survey, which previously had always been paper. If I send them a qualtrics survey but only allow it to save answers as text then we can have the discussion about how to enter in data into Stata and how to decide what numerical codes to give things. (I will just have to tell them that there is an automatic way to turn strings to numbers, but that’s beyond the scope of the first day of class.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I have emailed my department head to get their thoughts about personal whiteboard for students (can I require them to buy their own this late in the semester, would the department pay for them, etc.)?

      • Katherine Says:

        I know several mathematicians who have gotten cheap class sets of personal whiteboards by buying 4×8 white melamine tile board and having it cut into 2ft x 2ft squares. My understanding is that they are functional but don’t last forever because they’re more prone to staining by marker residue than “real” whiteboards.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Good to know! I would definitely want students to have their own and not share in this environment.

  3. CG Says:

    I hope it all works out well for you and your kids. In contrast, we’re dreading the approaching cold weather (won’t be here for a while, but still dreading it). I guess people are just going to have to bundle up and be outside no matter what. I have ordered some propane heaters for our backyard in hopes that will extend the season where we can see friends.

  4. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Maybe a range extender for your wifi, if you don’t already have one, makes the backyard school space a workable option for the kids? I used to work outside sometimes when it was warm but couldn’t get very far away from the building. Not that we have such an expansive yard that there IS far to get away from the building.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    DC2 is one smart cookie, and zie is right, in-person isn’t as fun anymore. At least working at elections isn’t as fun this year as in 2018, partly because my favorite part was socializing during lunch in the break room and now I eat alone outside. Also, trying to sit six feet apart makes socializing during work less automatic. (Plus people tend to just look into their phones during quiet times instead of trying to make conversation, grr.)

    I’m glad y’all are able to make on-line schooling an option for your family. Good luck with fighting the crazies!

  6. undine Says:

    I’m glad that there was a good choice and that DC1 and DC2 are going to be okay with virtual learning.

  7. First Gen American Says:

    Now I am wondering if I should start researching home school supplemental activities. If it really is moving that way then I need to do more enrichment at home. I’m going to try not to worry about it til later in the month. There’s too much to have to juggle right now, but it’s a really good point that you may start out I’m school and then end up at home anyway and it would be easier to just have 1 routine from the get go and make it work. I’d be curious what the surveys say that they send out. At least our friend group all wants to go back.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If we lived in a safer state, we’d probably be sending DC2 back too.

      Among the achievers a grade ahead of DC1 (one of my friends at work’s son is in that group– it includes most of the top 8 GPA people in that grade), it seems pretty mixed with people choosing to go back or not. #1 and her older #1 sister are both going back, as are #5 and #8 but #2 (my friend’s son) is staying home as are like #4 and #6 (I may be getting those last two numbers slightly off, but in that general ballpark).

  8. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Update: They just realized that by starting the school year early, they were only giving teachers 3 days to prep their new classes. So they moved the start of school forward by a week to give teachers another week to prepare. I guess it’s good that they realized this before August? (But maybe would have been better if they’d realized before they moved the school a week back?)

    Since they won’t know how many people are choosing home vs. virtual until July 30th, I bet a lot of teachers don’t even know whether they’ll be teaching in person vs. from home.

  9. Lisa Says:

    Our school district is slowly releasing plans for the school year, although they seem to change with each iteration. I will not be sending my kids to school in person unless metrics in our area get a lot better (which I really don’t see happening this year, but hope springs eternal). My hope is that we can use the curriculum plans of the teachers we are assigned and help the kids complete their assignments at home. Our school district, which had been planning on a hybrid model (2 days in class each week for K-8, 1 for 9-12), has changed their plan to online only for the first term. This is fine with me, as it aligns with my preference and plans. However, the preliminary teaching outlines they’ve released in conjunction with the decision to move online do not sound good to me. Details are very sketchy, but it looks like they’re planning to have the teachers “teach” on zoom all day as if they were standing in front of the classroom. I hope this isn’t true, because there’s no way they’re going to get elementary school kids to sit in front of a computer and “learn” all day.

    So my current dilemma is whether I should try to use the school’s curriculum (i.e. will the teacher let me use their assignments, turning them in on their schedule but not make my kids sit on the computer all day) or pull them out entirely and homeschool them, which would require a huge amount of effort on my part but I think it would be worth it to save them from endless zooming and hopefully promote some real learning in this crazy year. I’m also pondering whether these efforts will require me to take leave this year (which I think I could do). I think I could keep my lab running and fulfill my teaching and other responsibilities while homeschooling, though it wouldn’t be the best year. Is anyone else facing similar decisions or does anyone have experience with homeschooling and advice to share? I think I’ll give the local schools a try for a few weeks, but need to be prepared to pull the plug if it’s a nightmare. All I really want is to have a solid plan that I can run with. Clearly COVID is not interested in my plans.


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