The new snow day?

I woke up a few minutes early on Wednesday morning so that I would have time to wash my hair before school. I turned off the alarm on my phone and the first thing I saw was a text message from my ride to school saying, “I don’t think you are coming to school today as per the director’s email?” I clicked over to my school email and saw the director’s email sent at 11:40 p.m. the night before with the subject line: “URGENT COVID-19 Update.” One teacher in the middle school who works with students in multiple grades had tested positive for Covid and therefore the whole middle school would move to online learning for the next week “out of an abundance of caution.” There would be no classes on Wednesday so teachers could get ready to make the switch.

No school today? It felt like getting that call on a winter’s day that there would be no school due to snow.

It was 6 a.m. and there was no further information, so I went back to bed for two hours. haha. I know that most teachers probably jumped up and got to work, minds racing, but I’m a good sleeper. What can I say?

By the time I got up and finally washed my hair, a team leader meeting had been scheduled for 10 a.m. I had time to run out and grab a coffee before the meeting. We had an hour-long meeting with the team leaders followed by an hour-long meeting with the full MS faculty (both on Zoom, of course) before using the rest of the day to prepare for online learning the next day.

I ate the lunch that I had packed for school, and then started getting my lessons ready to go online. We did distance learning for 13 weeks in the spring, so it was mostly a matter of getting set up. I don’t think any of us expected a closure so soon, so we hadn’t had a chance to really prepare the students (or ourselves) in advance.

After two days of teaching from home, the positives and negatives of distance learning quickly came back to me.

Positives: No commute means I can sleep in and mornings are much more relaxed. I love being able to go to my kitchen to cook or heat up some lunch. Not having to get all of that ready the night before makes the evenings feel so much more relaxed as well. Normally, I get home, make dinner, pack a lunch, and hope to finish a few things around the house and still have time to watch a show before bed. Teaching from home, I just close my laptop and there is so much more time, not only because I don’t have a commute but also because I don’t have to prepare so much for the next day. These last few days I found time to exercise for the first time since we started back at school!

Negatives: Zoom fatigue is REAL and it doesn’t take long at all to set in! The first three classes of the day and I was already getting a headache from looking at my computer screen. But it’s not only classes that are online: every meeting and co-planning session are on Zoom too (and that’s not to mention that grading becomes an online task as well!). And I think it goes without saying that it is so much harder teaching students online. It’s harder to tell if they are engaged, harder to give them opportunities to collaborate with each other, harder to immediately see if they need support.

While it was kind of exciting to get that “snow day” message on Wednesday morning and kind of fun to change things up for a week, I feel a little less overwhelmed knowing that this isn’t the start of distance learning for the rest of the year. It sure seems like this is going to be part of our new normal for the rest of the year though. At a moment’s notice we will be expected to switch from one teaching format to the next. I’m sure that as we are now better prepared, we won’t be given full days off with no classes to get prepared. I’m hoping that if we do go to full distance learning in the future that we will have some sort of rotation schedule where we have a day teaching online and then a day for offline work. As a school, we are still working on what that will look like. Hopefully we figure it out sooner rather than later because the numbers in Hungary continue to rise well beyond anything we saw in the spring.

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