23 Hours of Planning=5 Hours of Teaching

Yup. That is the mathematical ratio for virtual teaching. 23 hours of planning translates into 5 hours of teaching. Just 5 hours.

My stress has been rising in the last month. I thought it was getting better. The amount of emails I have been receiving on daily basis has dropped tremendously. I have been able to start writing again. I am back in my novel, editing. And I’m damn proud of my work.

But I’m finding that I am constantly exhausted. Not just tired. Not just weary or fatigued. Exhausted. As in stupid mistake making, repeat myself ad nauseam exhausted.

I know that I’ve babbled about this before. But today is Saturday. Saturday is grading day because my virtual students turn in all their work on Friday. But I wasn’t able to get all of my planning done for various and sundry reasons. Which means that I wasn’t able to upload all of my work on Friday (by midnight is the rule) because I as still building content and curriculum. So, today, I finished building.

Trying to teach 9th graders virtually is really, really hard. They do not have the maturity or cause-effect cognitive skills yet to understand the consequences of their actions. So, procrastination visits them like a plague and the work isn’t done. And me, being me, I feel like I need to do more to help them, to encourage them to do their work. But it’s not necessarily feasible or possible because I’m not there, standing by them, offering them the help that will break them through the mental block which inhibits them from doing their work.

23 hours of planning=5 hours of teaching. And I’m not even really doing a lot, if I can be totally honest. No Shakespeare. No novel. No real long works of fiction or non-fiction. Just short poetry, a one act, short stories, a couple of speeches. Short works that can be read in the space of about 20 minutes at the most (I read them out loud to the students or have other people read them aloud).

No vocabulary.

Just reading/literary analysis. Writing. Grammar.

I feel like I could cut grammar. I’m thinking a lot about it. And then I had students who took the PSAT who reported that my lessons have helped them. I had another student email me that her science teacher praised her on her writing skills and grammatic knowledge. So..there’s that.

Virtual teaching is blindfolded education. Once a week, I dump material onto the web. Every day, I get on Zoom for an hour. At least three days a week, students usually don’t join. But I’m there, waiting for them in case they have a question.

I know that good things are happening. I can see it. But, then, the exhaustion whittles away at me and my ability to see clearly.

23 hours of planning=5 hours of teaching.

Build activities.

Record videos.

Develop teacher samples.

Find student samples.

Create rubrics.

I miss discussions. I miss small group work. I miss being able to talk and not having to pull the mask away from my face because it muffles my voice. I miss being able to have my students repeat themselves once because I didn’t hear them the first time, not because I can’t understand them because of their masks. I miss being able to hug students when they are having bad days. I miss seeing the flush of joy on a student’s face when they recognize their success.

What I have learned: I can differentiate like a beast. And I’m still learning. I have four completely different writing groups. I have three reading groups. I am learning more and more about truly aligning my curriculum so that lessons I teach are bouncing off of one another. I have built in commercials to teach real world writing. I have overcome my anxiety about making phone calls. I have found my own sense of inner strength that I thought I had lost last year.

I found that teaching my students with my dog in the room gives me a conversational piece. Now, my students turn on their cameras to show me their dogs and I get all dopey…but I love dogs.

Virtual teaching is exhausting and so hard to find rewarding. But the inner rewards are there. They take time to create. They take time to find. I have worked harder building virtual curriculum than I did when teaching dual enrollment seniors, college classes, or gifted-and-talented sophomores. But I am thankful, now, for the work I have done in the past because it has helped me now as I build.

I don’t know if I am being all that successful. I know that the semester will end and I will have a semester’s worth of virtual material built. I pray that next semester (we are on a four-by-four system here..four classes per semester…each class lasting only one semester) I will feel like I can breathe a little better, a little easier. Maybe I won’t have to spend 23 hours to build material.

Regardless…in the end..I will still say…it was worth it. Because the weekly 23 hours of curriculum construction has also translated into me building my confidence. Me destroying my insecurities and anxieties. And maybe, using that material as the mortar toward seeing myself anew is not such a bad tradeoff after all.

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