Today was a whirlwind. Our guidance counsellors in all of our “bricks and mortar” schools were given the list of “conflicts” and began to resolve them to ensure that all students had timetables. Our communication team had announced that the timetables would be sent to students today, so there was a hard deadline.
I was given the task of ensuring that the details of each teacher’s request was noted next to their name in the master list. I wrote their course preferences, and then indicated if the department or subject into which they had been placed differed from what we had learned from them via last week’s survey. I believe the subject designations were decided near the beginning of the process, based upon qualifications and input from their schools. I also believe that teachers were also informed of these department placements at that time, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises.
However, with student timetables a priority, the entry of teachers next to courses didn’t begin until near the end of the day, and is ongoing as I write.
To complicate matters, Principals were given discretion to transfer students to the Online School, where remaining in F2F settings put them at risk. These additional, more than 200 students, made it a challenge for conflicts to be resolved, and resulted in many students without complete timetables. I know that this has created stress for counsellors, who always do the best for their students, and will head home today without resolution.
And, as of the end of this day, there were still LTO positions which had not been filled. So, the suggestion that more teachers be added to the school has merit, but will be difficult to achieve. I believe there will be many conversations over the weekend, with our leaders working to resolve this dilemma.
Having completed the teacher preference summaries, I was then given the task of timetabling all of our developmentally delayed students into their programs. There are more than 100 students, and each timetable entry takes me from 5 to 10 minutes, so this will be a task that stretches out over my weekend. Yes, this could have been done by each of the schools, but we weren’t ready to begin the task until the end of the school day. And our counsellors have had a busy enough week, and a busier Friday, without having to stay late. We missed the student timetable email deadline, so I have until Monday afternoon to have all of them in place.
I am anticipating hearing from many of our colleagues, concerned that they don’t yet know what they are teaching. With the hiring of LTO teachers incomplete at this time, I know that a close review will be necessary to ensure that we have teachers matched with classes for Tuesday. So I have no idea when we will be able to share specifics with our teachers.
It is my hope that our Online School teachers will plan their first day as a community building day. The students will need to learn both the synchronous (MS Teams or Google Meet) software, and the asynchronous learning management system (D2L Brightspace or Google Classroom). The students will be from schools throughout our school board, so few of them will ever have met. And getting to know new people online is not going to be as simple as it is face-to-face.
One advantage of the Online School is the sheer number of sections of each course. The odds are that most teachers will have two classes of the same course, and will be working on a course team with several others. With so many hands, there should be light work.
It will be unusual for some of our teachers to have the support of a colleague, and getting to know each other will be as challenging as it is for the students to get to know each other. I know that there have been Facebook and WhatsApp groups formed, and I hope that this will continue. Our teachers will be stronger together.
So, it’s back to the two computers I have running: one with my spreadsheet of students and their courses, and another with our student information system. I will be thinking of my two colleagues who are now on day seven of timetable building, without a break. They likely have at least two more days ahead of them. We should thank them for their dedication; without them we would have no chance of opening school next Tuesday!