Clara Barton teacher: Making peace with ‘limitations’

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

Now that kids have officially been working for a week, you start to see more clearly what you need to change and do differently. On the one hand, a lot of kids are engaging, so that’s fantastic. On the flip side, having seen their work for a week, it’s not what we could do if we were together. I’m going to do some things differently this week, but I also have to make my peace with the fact that there are limitations. 

In the week ahead, we’re going to start our astronomy journals, and I’m going to use a platform called Flipgrid, where students record short videos. They’re going to have a chance to show their interpretation of rotation versus revolution. Those are good chances to push them to be more active.

The access issue just hasn’t gone away. We have kids who have felt from the get-go that they did everything they were supposed to do to advocate for a device and still don’t have one. We are hopeful that a bunch of devices will get delivered this week, but we still have kids who are working out of packets. If you’re online, I can see the work you’ve done, but if you aren’t, I don’t know for certain that you have a packet, and if you do, I don’t know what you’ve done in that packet.

It’s really challenging to assess everyone’s work when you can’t just say, “Everyone stack your work in the middle of the table.” There were a number of times when students were unsure about how to turn an assignment in. 

With some of my English language learners, I often realize I need to go back and be clearer, and it’s just really hard to do that with Google Classroom. I can write a comment to a kid on their document and then I can post it right away, but are they reading that comment? Do they understand what I mean by that comment? When I can’t read your nonverbal communication, it’s really hard to see if you get it and, when you don’t get it, where this is breaking down.

Morning work seems great. I get up, go for a run, and I always get ideas about teaching and learning when I’m running. I’m always excited to get started. It’s a little harder to stay motivated through the day. It’s not that there isn’t stuff to do, but some of the things that would normally keep me going just aren’t there.

Hearing from kids who you hadn’t heard from in a few weeks and talking to families and parents are the big successes. There were a couple of times last week when I got positive feedback about work kids are doing. Then you actually think, “Maybe this is more successful than I think right now.”

I’m trying to try different things. Last week I tried an online textbook. Some kids really liked it, but it’s written at a seventh- and eighth-grade level, and I have a lot of students who aren’t reading at that level yet. That makes it really challenging. This week I’m not going to use the textbook. I have other resources. There’s a great video the students are going to use this week, there’s an article from our lab guide and then I’ve made videos.

I have to give a huge amount of credit right now to the kids. I really want them to know that they’ve been put in a really difficult situation. My colleagues have been amazing. Our families are really rallying. It’s a huge team effort right now.


 You can read all of the stories here.