JBB's Final Thoughts E037: The Endless Assault of "New Normals"

JBB’s Final Thoughts Episode 37: The Endless Assault of “New Normals”

JBB’s Final Thoughts Episode 37: The Endless Assault of “New Normals”

Pondering the challenges of finishing the school year in “work from home” mode and how the world might change “after this is done.”

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Joe Bustillos here.

Toward the end of last week I found out that the rest of the school year is going to continue in the current “work from home”/“emergency learning” mode. Side Note: many districts are calling this current mode “remote learning,” but those of us who have conducted actual online or remote learning reject the use of those words to describe what we’re doing because it wasn’t begun with any planning or guidance or technology support that actual remote learning requires. And any successes in this endeavor is entirely because teachers are determined to stay connected with their students and quite frankly we are used to being told to do the impossible and make it happen without the means to be successful.

Last week was also the week when Chromebooks were being distributed to families attending my school who do not have technology at home. Since week two, home room teachers have been calling homes to connect with their students and to verify contact information. The word was that a large portion of our students and families didn’t have any technology at home including any kind of smartphone. So the decision and implementation of distributing technology is a good thing. I just wish that this could have happened before we began the fifth week of our current situation (sixth week if you count the week of Spring Break that we still got). So, that leaves four more weeks until the beginning of the Summer Break. I’m curious how much can be done in that time, given the lack of direct contact.

I’ve been working like crazing creating instructional videos and trying to figure out how I might get students to access the curriculum. One of the other specials teachers, the music teacher, has been championing using the Seesaw platform because it’s not dependent on student email addresses and can be accessed with a smartphone. Before this began I had created individual blogs for the 4th and 5th graders to teach Internet communications and digital citizenship, but that got a little derailed. So I’m thinking that I will jump on the simpler Seesaw bandwagon for the primary grades (K through 3) and use Google Classroom with the intermediate grades (4 and 5) with the option for any 4th or 5th grade students to use the blog accounts I’ve already created if they want to. Now to figure out how to get the personal login information to each student without creating a security leak. Oh yeah, during the second week of this situation district IT decided to change how student passwords could be updated and/or recovered and I was locked out of that process altogether, making it impossible for me to assist my teachers in getting student emails up and running (another reason I am going with Seesaw with the primary grades…). Then toward the end of last week, I was able to update a student password, so I’ll be busy working on those classes that didn’t get setup after I was locked out.

It’s not exactly a “new normal” for me to work from home or begin and end my day sitting at my computer desk. I taught online for six-years at Full Sail University before coming to Las Vegas and have been an online student since working on my masters with Pepperdine beginning in the summer of 2001. That said, I do miss going to the local micro-breweries Friday evenings after work or going to the movies at the Orleans with my girlfriend, Deb. And I really wish that I hadn’t sold my trusty treadmill when I moved from Orlando in 2016. Before I sold it, I got a lot of mileage on that bugger because I had it set up so that I could work on my laptop, create assignments and grade student work while getting in my daily walks. I notice that most of the treadmills are sold out on Costco’s website. When I was working face-to-face in the classroom I was on my feet continually, so I’m going to have to find some solution before I put on too much quarantine-weight. I also recognize that concentrated creativity requires routinely stepping away/physical activity to keep the brain fresh and engaged. Oh, and we’re now in that time of year when it’s getting over 80° by 9am. Ugh.

Alas, a little physical discomfort is nothing compared to the challenges many are facing particularly unemployment and job loss because few service businesses like restaurants, casinos and theaters (the bread and butter of Las Vegas) can be done from home. I am lucky that there is an “emergency learning from home” possibility, but as I noted earlier, there’s a lot of families who don’t have the means to do at home learning and are falling through the cracks and might not come back when things turn around. And who knows what this “turn around” might look like. The number of students re-enrolling in the Fall might drop tremendously, shrinking the number of teachers needed in the Fall. Just after the work-from-home order was given, I was lucky enough to secure a position teaching at a Middle School close to my place beginning in the Fall, but things are far from certain given that we have no idea what enrollment is going to be in the Fall or what challenges we’ll face when we’re hit by COVID-19’s second wave. Given my health history, I’m certainly not in a position to not take precautions and be very concerned about getting back into the business of working in close proximity with hundreds of potential walking germ factories. I hope they like me in my fashionable face-masks.

I have been working in technology (officially) for over 40-years, since I hired on with the phone company in 1979, so I’ve made a study of the constant change brought about by the continuing changes in technology. I’m used to this and I’m always looking for benefits and challenges. But most of my fellow teachers do not easily welcome change. One year after one of my schools became a video-journalism magnet school, ten of the thirty teachers left that school for other teaching positions at other schools. Hell, my change of schools has nothing to do with the current COVID-19 challenge, but it certainly doesn’t help with the difficulty of starting something new at a new school, new grade levels, new administration and the possibility of the second wave of COVID-19 rearing its ugly head just after the beginning of the new school year. So, yeah, I’m okay with the computer stuff/working from home stuff, but I worry that the world outside my door will never be the same again and I am getting a bit old for this shit. Really. I appreciate a good challenge, but this is getting ridiculous.

How are you coping? How do you keep your sanity? I do find myself watching way too many Graham Norton videos on FaceBook when I need a break from other computer things. What’s your guilty pleasure? Please leave a comment or a like where ever you are seeing or hearing this podcast.

Also, if you haven’t done so, please subscribe to either my blog or to my YouTube channel. If you found this on Facebook and clicked the link to my blog to watch this, please scroll to the bottom of the blog page and click the “Follow” button. Enter your email address and whenever I post another podcast you’ll get a message in your email. Because I recently moved my videos to a new YouTube account, I have very few subscribers. So, if you’re watching this on YouTube, please feel free to go to my channel, click the subscribe button and the little bell icon, so that you get an email message whenever I post a new video podcast to my channel. Alas, thanks to FaceBook’s precious little algorithm, it’s not enough to be my friend on FaceBook, if you are interested in getting these podcasts when they come out (which I’m working on getting one out every two-weeks)… So, it works better if you either subscribe to my blog or my YouTube channel (or both!). Enjoy.

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