Clara Barton teacher: ‘I’m being really lenient with late work’

Tracey Schultz
Tracey Schultz

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 edited for length and clarity.

Tracey Schultz, science teacher, Clara Barton Open School

Starting this week, we felt like our kids who still needed devices were about to get them, so we could get up and running with Google Meet. Kids who are looking for contact now have a really predictable way that they can get in contact with us.

We have a lot of kids moving forward with us now and getting into some school-like routines. Every day we pick up a couple more kids. They get their Chromebook, and they get their [WiFi] hotspot. There is a really big learning curve with switching to Google Classroom without any in-person time. If we’d have more time with the kids to plan for this, it would be different, because in class we would have tried a bunch of different things and the kids would have helped each other. As more time goes on, we’re doing that helping from home and I feel like kids are doing a good job moving themselves around Google Classroom and finding what they need.

For a lot of reasons, it’s good that I’m giving out work on a Monday due the next Monday. The tough thing about this is just puts so much responsibility on the kids to navigate. I think a lot of folks, particularly adolescents, are procrastinators. It’s a very delicate balance of trying to be very flexible and understanding and also trying to help teach them to navigate their days on their own independently.

For the work I’m sending out next week, I’m trying to be really concise in the directions and have them look really similar from one assignment to the next. I have started to make a summary video for the week and have videos that go with every assignment. That’s where I try to pack in as much teaching as I can. It’s also been really interesting to see parent responses. Some parents feel like, “My kid was super responsible at school. They were turning in all of their work, so they’ve got this online learning in the pandemic thing [figured out].” In a lot of cases, that’s not true. [The kids] have figured out one system, but this is a system they’ve never seen before.

The Flipgrid videos have been great. [Schultz had asked students to make videos to show the difference between rotation and revolution as part of an astronomy unit.] Some kids chose to be in their videos. A lot of pets were in their videos and were being rotated and revolved. Some kids don’t want to be in the video, so you can use other things. There are cool effects that you can add to the video. There’s an art element to it, too, that’s fun to see some kids explore.

With grading, we have to wait and see what kind of adjustments the school district wants us to make. I’m still putting grades in the electronic gradebook, but I’m being really lenient with late work.

One nice thing about having some of their work be on Google Docs is that I can write comments on the work and post it and immediately pop it back to my students. Then my student can look at those comments and essentially fix their work and pop it back to me. There were those opportunities at school, too, but the cool thing about this is it’s as immediate as I can make it. Also, it’s nice for me to go back and see what I commented and put on the work. Sometimes kids lose their papers. It’s much harder to lose things on Google Classroom.

Even though things are hard, and there are a lot of big struggles, we want to keep expectations for kids high. It’s an injustice to kids to lower the bar, because if the bar is lowered, they’re going to come out of this with less. It’s a worry that we all have — what are they missing. We’ve got to keep the expectations really high, and what’s critical to that is we’ve got to support the kids so they can meet those expectations. I feel like I’ve got a long way to go on that.

VOICES FROM THE PANDEMIC

 You can read all of the stories here.