Justice Page teacher: ‘The demand on time is even greater than I thought it might be’

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, Justice Page Middle School

We’ve been doing experiments for two weeks. It feels like a really long time.

Today we were doing experiments with cohesion and adhesion — really looking deeply at these properties of water — and we were trying to float paper clips on a cup of water. It was really fun, because I could say, “If you have the metal paperclip floating, turning on your mic and say, “I do! I do!” and then there comes the [chorus of] “I do! I do! I do!” And then I said, “OK, now we need some tips,” and asked, “Who’s going to give a tip?” They’ll turn on their mic and say, “I did this,” or, “I did this.” Kids who haven’t got it yet or for whatever reason got a late start can benefit from that conversation.

Kids are just getting braver. They’re getting more comfortable saying, “How are we doing that?” or, “I’m not getting that.” They feel comfortable turning on their mic and asking for help. So it’s just working way better than I thought it might and I hoped it might.

One thing I’ve gotten good at is manipulating my camera so I can model experiments, usually after the fact. (You never want to show students the really cool thing that’s going to happen before it happens.) When they come back after working on the experiment, I have a stand now for my laptop so I can do the experiment and we can talk about what we saw and what happened.

I feel like it’s not always the case at school that everyone does the experiment. Even when you have the materials in hand for every kid to do the experiment, it’s really easy to kind of watch your neighbor and do what your neighbor does. But when your neighbor is not right there in the room with you, it’s really on you.

I love [physically] being at school. I get to have some interactions with colleagues every day, which professionally is really important to me. The bar is just really high for the safety of the physical space in terms of the cleaning that’s happening behind the scenes when we’re not there and the masks and distancing.

The demand on time is even greater than I thought it might be, just because every component of what you do every day just takes so much more time to plan and prepare for. You’re trying to have a lot of contingency plans in place, asking, “If this doesn’t happen, what’s my backup?” and “What’s my backup for my backup?” Every day, I need to be able to stop time for maybe three, four hours so I can sneak in what I feel like needs to happen in the workday.

A lot of the logistics are getting easier. Kids are figuring out how to be part of a Google Meet community in terms of: What does that mean for managing their microphone, managing the camera, how to use the chat and what to do if they lose their internet connect? As those things work better, it starts to feel more and more like our new normal.

At all levels, [there’s] just really extraordinary effort — from kids, from families, from our staff — to make this happen. Obviously, I hope distance learning will end tomorrow, but I feel like we are making this work for now, and that feels really good.


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