notes on learning, design, tools, & life

Teachers are afraid of hybrid learning

Interesting take from Michael Pershan:

These forms of “hybrid” or “simultaneous” or “concurrent” teaching all suck, and they are all more or less frustrating, and they are certainly asking teachers to do a great deal more work. And as such, they are completely valid concerns for teachers to raise about returning to school, whether or not they have been vaccinated. 

Speaking personally on this is tricky for me. I currently teach at a relatively wealthy private school where class sizes are in the teens, not the twenties or (god help me) thirties. I have been going in in-person since the start of the year. (Biking from Washington Heights to Brooklyn earlier, now that I’m vaccinated I’ve been back on the subway.) The school schedule at my place is fairly complicated, but because of parents keeping their kids home I’ve been teaching simultaneously online and in-person. 

And it’s very hard but here’s what I’ll say — I only feel dumb about it when very few kids are at school. When most kids are in the classroom and a few are online, well, it’s not more effective for the kids who are online. But at least I feel like my presence at school is worthwhile. I can more easily help kids with things, I can keep an eye on everyone, and more important it feels like there’s a real social environment. Yeah, it’s really hard for the kids who are online and it’s even harder to pay attention to them. 

I think this distinction is maybe missed on people? Hybrid with a few kids in-person is really, really hard. Hybrid with a few kids online is manageable. 

I know of lots of teachers who are facing situations where three or four kids are coming into their physical classroom while they have many more students Zooming in online. That’s a recipe for frustration. That feels like you might as well have everyone stay at home, since you’re basically teaching online anyway — but you also have to watch these kids. (Especially elementary school teachers, since you’re really supposed to be in charge of these kids but you can’t! It can feel like impossible babysitting while also doing your job.)

I’m working with adults, and so far since our campus partially reopened to students in Barcelona, I have advocated for, and stuck to, teaching “hybrid” classes from home. I’m not vaccinated, and while I’m a teacher, since I don’t work with children I don’t expect any kind of similar priority that most teachers should have in the vaccine line. I stay home in part to reduce unnecessary risk of contributing to any spread on campus.

However, the more important reason to me, is that I don’t want to put any pressure on students working with me to go to campus if they don’t feel comfortable or secure in doing so. I also don’t want to create a situation where remote students become somehow secondary to on-campus students, because not all students have the option to go to campus. Some are in fact not currently located in Barcelona, including my wonderful TA.

Pershan’s thoughts make me wonder if in the near future I might consider as an experiment to try going to campus when more students (but not yet all) are able to, to see whether it is as manageable for me and my community as it seems to be in his context. I certainly do miss aspects of the social learning environment that is more readily available in a physical classroom setting, as well as all the passive information I’m accustomed to gathering about how students are making progress.

Let’s see what the next months bring.