Don’t Let The Yes Become No

Sixth Grade Teacher

Hi, students!  I know you’re wondering what hybrid instruction will be like.  As your teacher, I care about you very much… and that’s why I’m hoping our school board reverses their decision and says we don’t have to switch to hybrid, after all.  Why??

Well — because I don’t think anyone has explained to your parents what the hybrid model is really going to look like.  And because many teachers are worried about their safety and their families.  And because a lot of us have unanswered questions about things like PPE, hygiene protocols, substitute teachers, Covid testing and contact tracing, and clear procedures when someone gets sick… There are more questions.  It’s a long list. 

But mostly, students, I’m dreading hybrid because our remote model is working pretty well so far, and I don’t want to lose that.  So far, I’ve been able to answer YES to many unspoken questions in your hearts, but in a few weeks, my answers will sadly become NO.  

Questions like…

“Can you tell me what’s going to happen?”

In remote?  YES!  Here are the lessons I’ve planned for you this week, easy to see on this website.  Here are your daily tasks and due dates, resources, everything you need.  We’ll have live, interactive Meets four days a week for each subject, as close to “normal” school as we can manage.  I’ll post videos I’ve made for you on Wednesdays, so you can keep learning.  I’m trying out new tools to engage you in virtual learning.  We’re going to be okay!  I miss you, but I’m relieved, because I know we’re all safe.  I may just be online — a face and voice on your screen — but I’m here for you.

In hybrid?  NO.  I don’t know what’s going to happen. The other teachers and I have lots of questions that no one has answered yet.  Everything is new, and things will keep changing.  We may not be able to stay in hybrid very long, if people start getting sick.  I don’t know what’s going to happen if one of you gets sick, or who will teach you if I get sick.  Are we safe?  I’m not really sure.

“Are you available to teach me new things today?”

In remote?  YES!  That’s what I’m here for.

In hybrid?  NO, I’m sorry.   I’m here for the other kids today.  You have to wait a few days.

“Can you help me with this?”

In remote?  YES!  That’s what I’m here for.

In hybrid?  NO, sweetie, I’m sorry.  I’m busy all day with the other kids.  Go ask your parents.

“Can you see when I’m confused?  Can you see when I’m happy?”

In remote?  YES!  Even over the screen.  I see you; I can tell when you’re confused.  I can see when you smile.

In hybrid?  NO, sweetie.  I can’t read your expression through your mask.  I can’t really hear you, either.  I keep asking you to repeat yourself.  I wonder whether you can hear me?  I miss the Meets we used to have, when I could see your face, and when I could communicate to you without my own mask in the way.  I’m trying to reassure you, but you can’t see me smile now, either.

“Is teaching me the most important thing to you?”

In remote?  YES!  While you’re safe at home, I don’t have to worry about keeping you safe; I can focus all of my time and effort on teaching you.

In hybrid?  NO. Keeping you safe will be the most important thing to me.  Teaching will take a back seat.  You won’t learn as much as you could have this year; I’m sorry.  I feel like I’m failing you, but they said it had to be this way.

“Do you like me?”

In remote?  Of course, silly!  You’ll never have reason to doubt it.

In hybrid?  Of course, silly!  But you may not believe it.  I will have to be very strict — like the hygiene police!  I will have to watch you and fuss at you if your mask is not on properly or if you’re sitting too close to your friend or if you didn’t wash your hands long enough.  You’re going to get tired of me fussing.  I hope you know I still like you.

“Can I socialize with my friends?”

In remote?  YES!  That’s why we scheduled “recess Meets” and why I’ll start remote clubs soon — to give you some of that down time with your peers that I know you desperately need.

In hybrid?  NO.  Not really, I’m sorry.   I can’t let you do group work or move freely across the room.  (I can’t even lean over you if you need help on your paper.)  You’ll be assigned a seat at lunch in your own space.  You’ll be assigned an area of the playground at recess and a small group of peers that you have to play with.  You may even have to be escorted to the bathroom like during testing, so we know you’re in there alone.  I know you’re very disappointed; socializing is the main reason you wanted to come back to school in person, and I know you need it… but that’s not what hybrid is for.  

“Are you excited about teaching me?” 

In remote?  YES!  Delivering lessons remotely is tricky and takes hours to prepare, but I’m getting the hang of it, and I can see through the screen that you’re engaged, too.  I like trying new things and figuring out how to share my passion for my subjects with you.

In hybrid?  ….  It breaks my heart to say it — but NO.  I’m too exhausted and anxious to feel excited.  As much as I’d love to have you back full time in my “normal” classroom… Just the thought of hybrid wears me down, burns me out.  I don’t want to spend time and energy making new schedules and routines right after spending so much time designing remote and making it work; picking and choosing which standards to teach you and which ones must be left out now; shopping for masks that actually let me communicate with you all day long; training with new protocols that we’re making up as we go; fussing at you and prioritizing my job of hygiene police over the job of teaching you; explaining to you that I’m only here for you two days a week now but that I still care…  

… We’ll make it work.  That’s what teachers do.  This is what the people in charge chose for us.  Maybe it’s not too late for us to tell them how desperate we are for them to change their minds.