Brave New World of Education

When I got back from running Thursday afternoon, I had a voice message from the high school. They needed a substitute teacher for special-needs classes. I’ve been so bored I was happy to take the job.

The students I had today were functional special needs. They’re attending half-days, one group in the morning and one in the afternoon for three periods each, so I never had more than four students at a time. Everyone wore masks; teachers and aides also had face shields. We’d sanitize the desks after every period, and there was a two-hour break for lunch so the classroom could be fogged. All personal items were in boxes spaced apart in the hall. Each student had an individual Chromebook and pens & pencils in a plastic bag. Everyone who came in got a squirt of hand sanitizer and there were mandatory bathroom trips.

There were almost as many aides as there were students. The teacher I was subbing for actually conducted the class from home via Zoom (with a toddler scurrying around underfoot), so there wasn’t much for me to do. I assume I was there because a licensed teacher is required to be in the classroom with students.

I gave a cheery “good morning” to the first student who came in, then was told he was deaf (his aide was proficient in sign language). We started with home room via Zoom; their home-room teacher was in her classroom in a different part of the building, although the rest of her students were home. Today was the end of the first week of school. One problem is some of the Zoom addresses have been leaked and unauthorized people have been popping up to disrupt classes (“Zoom Bombing”), so security is being tightened. The homeroom teacher’s final instruction was “Go to your mailbox to get your Friday doughnut.” Yesterday, she dropped off doughnuts to her students’ homes.

It’s going to be an interesting year. It was good to get back and see what’s going on. Several of the students remembered me, and we have a fairly large group of freshmen. Some of them are disappointed one of their favorite teachers didn’t return, and the rumor is a lot of subs haven’t come back, either. I know some positions had to be cut due to decreased tax revenue, but I don’t know which ones. If we go back to in-person learning the second quarter, I could be very busy.

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