Clara Barton teacher: I’m making it work ‘in this strangle little upstairs classroom’

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Tracey Schultz, science teacher, Clara Barton Open School 

Last week, in front of students, I was trying to be present and stick to our plan. Coronavirus wasn’t part of my curriculum. Goodness knows they were getting enough of that elsewhere. When and if it came up, it was a good chance to approach it as a scientist.

On Monday, I gave the students quizzes back and collected a lab that they were finishing. I didn’t go to school on Tuesday [the last day school buildings were open to teachers]. I decided I’d be most comfortable and productive working from home. I set up Google Classroom. I decided to set up optional daily challenges for kids. Kids want routine and contact is really important. Three weeks is just way too long to go dark.

For today, I posted an optional challenge. Five kids have already turned it in, and it hasn’t even been an hour. I have them experimenting with using a highlighter with this text I wrote so that I know that they’re reading the text.

I’ve got a meeting with my AmeriCorps worker, who helps support our ELL kids. I have a Zoom meeting with another science teacher at Lake Harriet school, looking ahead to our astronomy unit and how we might want to reorder what we’re doing with it. I’m helping kids finish up their third quarter grades. I have some calls with kids and a pretty steady stream of email. I want to start experimenting with making my own videos and pushing those out to my Google Classroom site. That’ll be important if we are home after spring break to keep having more avenues for how to teach virtually.

In some ways, I’m able to provide a little more one-on-one attention right now. I’m not supervising passing time. I don’t have bus duty.

My routine? I don’t have to get up quite as early. I get to sleep in until 7 a.m., get up and go for a run so I can be in my “classroom” at 8 a.m. That means my laptop is open and I am going through all the emails that have come in. Then I’m in my classroom until 4 p.m. Then at 4, I’m trying to get away from work a little bit. Go for a walk or read or watch something on TV.

I am going to make a concerted effort to take the weekends off. Normally I’m bringing tons of work on weekends and planning for the week ahead. I think it’s important right now to take the weekend off and get away from it so I can come back and be excited on Monday.

I’m going to miss seeing the kids. I’m worried about them. The economics of the weeks ahead are going to be really tough. I wish I could be there in person for the kids and support them. I miss the adult interaction as well.

I’m still a full-time teacher even in this strangle little upstairs classroom I made. We’re going to do our best to make school work in the situation we’re in right now.

The cool thing is that we’re going to find some ways of doing things better that are going to help us enhance our work, and I also think we’re going to appreciate some things that we have been taking for granted. It’ll be interesting to see how all of that plays out.