Justice Page teacher: ‘In the real world, you don’t have the mute button’

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

My attendance has been really consistent with live school. When kids aren’t there, more often than not, they’re sending me a message to say, “Here’s why I can’t be there right now.” I’m also seeing more kids with their cameras on. That helps a lot, especially as you start class.

I have two practicum students from the University of Minnesota who are with us until mid-December. They’re so eager to dive in and try this new kind of teaching with me, which has been great. Having them in class is just a phenomenal gift for me and for the kids.

I would never have my cell phone on when I was teaching in a live class before, but now I feel like I need to have my phone there. If a kid can’t get into class or if something’s going on or their internet is down, the majority of time they will reach out with a text. I had to turn off my sound completely the other day, because by the time class was over, I had 50 new text messages. Sometimes you can’t manage all of that.

It’s been really hard to navigate the time to deliver materials [to students’ homes], but it’s been so wonderful to meet some kids. Even though there’s really no time in the day to do it. It boosts my spirits.

The management piece of teaching is so different when you’re on a Google Meet. If the technology is working as it’s intended to — let’s say there’s a kid who forgot to turn off their microphone — I can turn off their microphone. In the real world, you don’t have the mute button. That’s one piece I said to my practicum students — that it’s really unfortunate that they aren’t getting to do that live management piece.

I’m going to take the show on the road over the MEA break. We have some family back in Idaho, so we’re going to get in the car Saturday morning. We’ll get to Idaho Sunday. We called the internet provider and cranked up the internet, because my partner and I are both teachers. We should be good to go. It wasn’t the case before that we could go see family in October.

You’re asking anybody you think might have a lead [about when Minneapolis Public Schools will move to Phase 3 from Phase 2 of its return-to-school plan]. [Phase 3 includes some in-school supports for students most in need of them.] I reached out and asked some of the teachers of kids who in that Phase 3 would possibly get to come back. No news yet. There’ll have to be some kind of heads up, but no indication yet of those plans.

Because it takes so much longer to plan everything, it’s more challenging than ever to keep up with grading student work. In regular school, I will often have something that goes in the gradebook every day. I’ve gone to one thing in the gradebook a week, and that’s a struggle. Right now, that’s grading that’s happening on Saturday. Then Sunday is much-needed planning time. That doesn’t leave any wiggle room. There hasn’t been a day off since school started.

 [In class] we’ve really been working on our science-process skills. I knew that I wanted to start the year with an emphasis on how scientists do their work so that I could really get kids right away using their science kits and doing science at home, so it could feel like some semblance of normalcy. I’m moving things around and taking some different turns with things that I really wouldn’t have otherwise. I really wanted to make sure that kids could come into class week 1, week 2, week 3 and kind of naturally slide into what we were doing.

We do have conferences next week. We’re doing a 20-minute conference with the homeroom teacher. We haven’t figured out a way to manage the logistics of some of those more unstructured conference times, where parents can come on and pop from teacher to teacher to teacher.

The highlight of homeroom has been playing bingo. I mailed each of the kids a bingo card, and we played for the first time on Wednesday. What I’ve done is made a made a little prize bag for each kid. I showed them, “Here’s your bag. Here’s your small prize for today.” I think one kid came back later and said, “But how do we get that?” Maybe the other kids were wondering. By popular demand, we’re going to play bingo again, and then I got to find some new game I can put in the mail to them.


 You can read all of the stories here.