Clara Barton teacher: ‘Now we’ve got this kid, so now’s our chance’

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

This hasn’t gotten any easier. Some things have gotten better. Other things have gotten harder. I’m more lonesome for the kids than ever. I can’t even begin to tell you how many kids have said to me, “I miss school.” That’s not a common thing for a seventh- or eighth-grader to say.

It’s so hard not to see them at this time of year. More of them are coming to Google Meet so we can see each other virtually. I think in an ideal world you would use that platform a lot more so that kids could have more interaction time every day. I don’t have a perfect idea for how to do that.

Sometime in the last week, I was on a Google Meet for my class and my colleague calls me on my cell phone. “I got him,” she says. It was a student who had not been engaging. I jump into this other Google Meet. So now we’ve got this kid, so now’s our chance. You’ve got to let them know you care so much and that they can do this. We had this student on Google Meet for three hours. We ended up just passing the kid from teacher to teacher to teacher. Now I call that “slingshotting.” It’s not perfect. They don’t go from zero to 60 in a day, but at least you get them on the road. They’re in the race. They’re not stuck in the mud anymore.

 I’ve been getting 15, 20 kids a day to come to this class I teach from 10 a.m. to 10:30. The kids who aren’t coming, a lot of them feel like they can do it independently. Some are not coming and need to come. I’m still sending out crazy numbers of texts every day … reminding them to come [and] calling their parents. The kids are getting better at texting for help. That’ll be a win if kids come out of this as better advocates for themselves and getting what they need.

All of my kids right now have devices and have [internet] access, so that’s huge. All of my kids are present on Google Classroom. Are they all engaged yet? No. I have a very small number — less than five — who really have shown no engagement. I have another 20 kids that I’m really worried about, because their engagement is not necessarily real focused or real meaningful.

About a week and a half ago, I opened up a modified science class so that my students who are just learning English can have a better chance to engage now. The learning curve was just really long to get some of those kids online. We’ve gotten some good results with that. I’m really worried about [students who receive special education services]. Our special education teachers have really large caseloads. They’re working like crazy, like the rest of us, to continue to support kids, but that’s really hard. For some kids, the support they need is one-on-one.

The [Comprehensive District Design vote] was really hard but was not a surprise. [The plan, approved by the School Board on May 12, restructures the district’s attendance zones and magnet schools. Starting in fall 2021, Barton will be a grades K-5 community school that draws students from East Harriet, Kingfield, Bryant and part of Central. It’s currently a grades K-8 magnet school]. I have huge concerns about equity in this district, and I don’t yet see plans here that are going to significantly change what the reality of school is for kids who we’re not serving well. I know some kids are going to move schools now, but when they move schools, are they going to land in places where they have outstanding, experienced teachers and great teacher-leaders and administrators? Are we going to be providing better resources for the kids? I don’t see that yet. So I hope that as we move forward, that there are truly changes that happen that affect the reality of what our underserved kids are experiencing every day. I don’t see that in the plans yet. That worries me.

At a personal level, it’s really hard to see such a fundamental change in the program that you’ve been a part of your whole life. [Schultz, who teaches seventh- and eighth-graders, was a Barton student and parent, and her mother also taught at the school]. That the building will become a K-5 school and no longer a K-8 is sad for me and obviously means a change in position. I certainly didn’t start the school year thinking, “I’m ready to change jobs.” Now that’s the reality.


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