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San Diego Teachers Reflect On Returning To The Classroom During The Coronavirus

 June 23, 2020 at 10:28 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The coronavirus pandemic has posed enormous new challenges for teachers and their students, teachers and San Diego schools had done their best during the quarantine to figure out how best to teach their students via distance learning. Now, the San Diego unified school district has announced it will start the new school year by giving parents the choice of either sending their child back to school or keeping them at home to continue distance learning, to talk about how education is adapting to all this. Our two teachers, Kesha Borden, who is president of the San Diego education association and who also taught third and fifth grade at Zamora elementary school for over 20 years. Keisha, thanks for being with us. Thank you for having me and Dave Irving teacher ceramics at Hoover. Hi, thank you for joining us now, Dave, you've been a high school teacher for 20 years, but this last year must have been very different. What's it been like for you these last few months with the transition to distance learning? Speaker 2: 00:58 Uh, unequivocably challenging, especially since I teach ceramics, which is a three dimensional art form and, uh, the way that we left school, uh, there wasn't a time for kids to all have what they needed at home. So I had to make a major transition in order to keep the year going for them. Speaker 1: 01:20 Keisha, what were you hearing from teachers across the district about how distance learnings worked for them? Speaker 3: 01:26 Um, well, it was definitely challenging as Dave said. Um, it was also exhausting mentally and physically exhausting, um, hearing from teachers, um, basically having to change their way of teaching completely. Um, in a matter of a couple of weeks, um, I think one of the biggest challenges was, uh, connecting with and retaining that connection with their students, whether their students were not able to connect for whatever reason or they just simply didn't have the motivation to connect. I think that was a big part of the challenge. Um, but yeah, just learning those new online platforms, zoom, Google meet, um, and making sure students were using those platforms safely. Um, our teachers were so worried. They had heard horror stories of zoom bombing that became a new part of our vocabulary of people somehow entering their zoom meetings with their students. And so there was a lot of concern about just keeping their students safe. Speaker 1: 02:33 Right. Let's just talk a bit about the coming year then. I mean, Kesha, can you see a situation where a family might decide to send a child to school maybe once a week for face to face time with a teacher and then do the rest at home? I mean, is that the kind of flexibility that's being offered? Speaker 3: 02:49 Well, that's one of the models that the district shared at the board meeting last week. Um, they call it a blended model where students, half of the class would come maybe four days a week, um, and then be home the next week while the other half of the class came in for four days. And then that fifth day would be, um, for prep for the teacher to prepare. Um, there would also be an option where for our service providers like our, um, occupational therapists or counselors or any of those other service providers, our speech language pathologists, there would be opportunity for students to make appointments, to come in and see those other service providers, because we found that that was a very difficult part of online learning those one-on-one, um, service providers, um, our ed specialists with our students with IDPs getting those services provided to our students. So, um, that's part of the plan for the blended learning is where students would only be on campus for a few days and then a different group would come, um, while the other, the first group was at home Speaker 1: 04:08 And while they are on campus, well, when they do arrive on campus, if they do Keisha, what do you imagine a classroom would look like? You know, taking social distancing requirements into consideration? Speaker 3: 04:20 Well, for my fifth grade class, I had up to 35 students. My classroom was not that big. Um, it was an effort to squeeze between desks during the day when all the students were there. So we, we definitely have to think about how we're going to reduce class sizes. I think that blended model where only half of the students are there is one option. If all students are there, there has to be some way to split the class because there's no way you can have 30, 35 kids in a classroom and implement social distancing. That's just not possible. Speaker 1: 04:57 And would that require more days a week, more hours in the day? How would you manage that? Speaker 3: 05:02 It would require more teachers, um, or other staff members to supervise half of the class while one half is in the classroom with learning and then perhaps some type of enrichment or something else happening with the other half of the class with another adult. That's part of the plan that hasn't really been fleshed out, that the district presented a very broad plan. Um, I know they're working this week and next week with, uh, think tanks to really work out the details, um, because there's a lot to consider. Um, if we're gonna come back to school, even just entering campus, um, thinking about, I don't know if you've ever seen drop off in the morning for an elementary school, there's hundreds of students coming to school. And if we're going to be checking temperatures or doing any of health check, there's going to have to be multiple entrances. There's going to have to be multiple staff members doing that. Um, we're going to have to limit visitors on campus or additional parents. It's, it's, there's a lot to consider if we're going to keep our students safe, Speaker 1: 06:16 A huge number of unknowns. Now, the district has said it only has enough money for in class education for the first half of the school year. I don't know if you're waiting on federal money. Um, but should parents be prepared to have their children learning from home again, if, if either of the covert numbers tick up or if enough funding doesn't come through, Speaker 3: 06:36 That's definitely a possibility. Um, the state recently decided not to implement the cuts they had talked about, um, to education, but even then, if we do not get the funding from the federal government, if the heroes act does not pass, the district has said they do not have enough money to continue the whole year. And so that's one thing. Another thing is if we see another surge, um, we're hearing from scientists that say this winter, there could be another huge surge in cases we may have to close schools again and go to distance learning. So yeah, we need to be prepared for that eventuality, as Dave was saying, he, at least if we start school, um, we can prepare our students. We can give them the resources and the supplies they may need if we have to go back to online learning. Speaker 1: 07:32 So I'd like to ask each of you, Dave first, what, what would you want the administrators to know at your school district about what would help you and your students to succeed in the next school year? Speaker 2: 07:47 Well, I would say fundamentally, it has to be a clear, a well understood science guided plan to keep everyone safe, um, and going with everything that's been consistently stated since what February, um, and that is social distancing and mask wearing, um, and, and avoiding large groups, which is going to be next to impossible in school, but whatever we do to try and make this happen, if it's clear, consistent, well thought out science guided, and everyone does the same thing Speaker 1: 08:28 And Kesha, what, what would you like to hear from the administration? Speaker 3: 08:32 Um, I, I completely agree with everything. Dave said, we need to really make sure that we are following the guidelines from the department of health. Um, we need to make sure that we have those protocols in place that we share those with our parents, so that the parents know exactly what to expect and, and help, uh, communicate those to their children. Um, so that the, the students are hearing the same message from the educators in school and from, from home. Um, so again, we need to make sure that we find ways to reduce the number of students in one place at a time. We need to figure out how we can make hand-washing, uh, available on a regular basis to students at school. Um, and again, the, the social distancing, there's just, there's a lot to consider. Um, but whatever is decided on, it has to be clearly communicated to everyone involved. Um, and we have to make sure, um, those protocols are followed for the health and safety of everyone involved. Speaker 1: 09:43 I just want to ask you one more question, which is, do you feel like the experience that you've had over the last few months of, uh, you know, learning about distance learning, uh, that it'll get easier that somehow we are on the, on the road to making progress with making distance learning effective for our students, Dave, Speaker 2: 10:02 The one thing that was really, and I don't know that it can be actually learned and we can get better at it, but just making the connections, the emotional connections that, that helped to stabilize, uh, um, uh, students in boon and get them ready for learning, um, by creating a, you know, an in person safe environment that you rely on, you know, facial expressions and, and, and just, you know, body language and all of that that is completely missing in, um, in the online learning environment. And some kids are fine with that. Um, and some kids aren't, and, and they, they kind of back away and that's, that's gonna be the biggest challenge is getting everyone an equal opportunity to, to strive. Speaker 1: 10:46 Excellent point. Yeah, we could go on. I'd love to, I've got a lot more questions, but, um, I'd like to thank you both very much. Kesha Borden president of the San Diego education association. Thank you, Keisha. Thank you. And Dave Irving, who teaches, uh, at Hoover high. Thanks, Dave. Thank you.

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Dave Erving, who teaches ceramics at Hoover High School, said he wants district leaders to know that for its reopening plan to help keep him and his students safe it should be clear, well understood and guided by science.
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