School Online – Journal – Day 16

Today was the first day of school for our students. As they were online, we really don’t have a good idea of how many showed up.  Since our student information system hasn’t yet been modified for our schedule, we have only paper records with each teacher. So I think they showed up, but I have no data.

I do know a significant number of our teachers began the day without timetables, and will only now have the information available to connect with their students. And their students will have been waiting at home for their teachers to reach out. I hope that has happened.

Our teachers have the choice of Brightspace or Google Classroom, and MS Teams or Google Meet. Many will have had little experience with either, so I would imagine today has been very stressful for them.  Their Brightspace shells are generated each night from our student information system, so they would not have been available today as we matched teachers to classes. Some will have accessed class lists, contacted students by email, and met them online. Others will have found themselves without the necessary information to do so.

Tomorrow will go smoother, as will each day from now on.

Our work will then shift to our families, and addressing timetables that don’t match choices.  We are also going to learn a great deal about “fit” between students, teachers, and technology.

Behind the scenes our team is calling occasional teachers, offering them positions, and then completing the paperwork to have them signed on.  All this has to happen before they can be added to the student information system and be assigned classes.

So what did I do as a Principal? Lots of emails. From 5:00 a.m. this morning, until I signed off at 6:30, with a two-hour break in the middle to teach. The teaching was fun; helping a new friend learn how to sew with a sewing machine.  And the return to a chair, not so much fun.

One challenge for us, responding to questions, is that our class records are under the name of the original teacher, while classes may be instructed by a long-term occasional teacher. We must match the teacher on leave with the LTO teacher, in order to provide our LTO teachers with course and student records.

Our teachers are all working from home, so we are limited to phone and email communication. It’s never as easy problem-solving when we can’t meet face-to-face. And I can only imagine their frustration waiting a response that could have been almost four hours in some cases today.

I never did get to and “empty inbox” between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., but in the final half hour I did it! I then put an “out of office” message on, promising to respond in the morning, and enjoyed a meal, an episode of “Maigret”, and hopefully a soak in our hot-tub after I finish writing this.

I know that we have wonderful teachers, and they are doing their very best.   I hope they find joy in their classes, knowing that they are creating a brand-new world for their students. And I hope that I can ease their way on this journey.

Tomorrow I will be up bright and early, hoping to allay concerns and support our teachers.  I could not have imagined the school we have, when I began teaching in 1983. Had we a pandemic then our students would be alone at home, with only mailed packages and a phone as our tools.  Now we have the Internet, multimedia tools, and the ability to bring a class of 31 together online to interact.  What a world!

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