Clara Barton teacher: Remote education is ‘a very different flow of time’

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

I was anxious to open my email this morning, thinking there might be 300 emails there waiting. You’re hoping for that but know you can’t really handle it. With remote teaching, it’s a slower start to the day. It’s not like students are jumping out of bed at 7:30 a.m. Today things actually felt pretty spread out. 

One of my teammates created a really nice attendance system with Google Classroom. Some kids are signing in, and then they’re all in on one class. I was talking with a kid in my homeroom who said, “I want to focus on one class today and one class tomorrow.” I’m glad we have that flexibility in place.

As today went on, it became clearer who I wasn’t seeing, and I started reaching out to some folks who I haven’t had contact with for, in some cases, over two weeks. Of course, you’re kind of anxious because it’s possible someone in their family is not healthy or that they’re really struggling. But based on what I know, there’s no one in the seventh- or eighth-grade community who is affected by COVID-19. Some kids were sleeping in or were working on other classes. The day ended with a quick staff meeting.

I didn’t have any video chats with kids today; it’ll be interesting to see how that ends up playing out. My ideal scenario would be that I’m in a Google Meet with seven to 10 kids at a time and we’re talking through a science concept or some data. I’m not going to work with 30 seventh- and eighth-grade scientists at once. In that case, I’ll make them a video and have them watch when they’re ready to.

Devices are still a big struggle. Folks are really rallying and are problem-solving, saying “I can do things on my phone.” Obviously learning on your phone is not the ideal interface but hopefully that’s going to get resolved in the next couple of weeks.

What’s really different [about remote education] is that you’re going from one thing to the next thing to the next thing. Today at one point, I had three different lists, because I was like, “If I don’t write down what I need to do today, I’m going to lose some of these things.” It’s a very different flow of time.

Tomorrow, our building is going to be open to teachers for a short amount of time, so we can sign up to essentially do whatever you can do in 15 minutes. What I’ll try to do is bring home a pretty massive amount of lab materials so I can create videos that essentially take the place of the lab work the kids would have done. There’s a lot of great videos online, but I think a video with me is going to be more meaningful to kids than one with somebody they don’t know. 

One more event tomorrow on the calendar: My mom is a retired Barton teacher and she volunteers in one of our third/fourth grade classes. Tomorrow I’m going to teach my mom how to make videos of her Friday physics lessons so that kids can watch from home.