Why Teachers Think About Quitting

 

Yesterday was the first day of school and I thought about quitting for most of it. Mostly I’m just relieved it’s Saturday today.

I work at a small independent Catholic school. Our admin decided that we would reopen for in-person instruction (which is clearly preferable to remote for all the obvious reasons), but offer a remote option to students who preferred to stay home — “hybrid” instruction. Leave it to admin to give it a name that makes it sound like it’s a perfected model. Herein lies the problem. Our school’s remote experience last spring worked pretty well mostly because everyone was remote at the same time so there was no balancing act required, at least for school.

Admin has now promised too much. There are parents who apparently threatened to withdraw their children from the school if they did not get remote instruction, and there were parents that threatened to withdraw if they did not get in-person instruction. So the school guaranteed both and promised that the teachers could handle it without asking our input (I get that teachers don’t make policy but we do offer constructive advice).

We were switched to Microsoft Teams for our video format, and on Wednesday there was a rushed 15-minute presentation on how to use the OWL cameras, $1,000 devices that were installed in certain classrooms that plug into our laptops with huge, hoselike cords that allow the remote students to see the class. The first day of school was Friday and there were still frantic discussions among teachers about whether we needed to plug in the HDMI cable with the USB cable for the OWLs to work properly, frequent audio problems, whether we needed to call the remote students on Teams to start the class or whether they would dial in first…In short, for a first day none of us felt competent and focused on the actual work of teaching because of the technology weighing on us.

On Friday I had 3 different classes and in each class, I had different numbers of remote students. In my first class, a student installed the Teams app on her phone so we were able to escape the suffocating heat of my un-air-conditioned classroom and go sit outside in the shade. In my second class, I wasn’t sure if the student from Saudi Arabia (there are also many students from China at the school- none of the internationals could get visas to come back this fall) was joining us or not and then there were another two students who were joining, but at any rate we had to stay in the room. To make the room bearable, I turned on two fans. Apparently, the students couldn’t hear much of what was being said on the OWL because the fan creates evident background noise. Also, the OWL is like a walkie-talkie with the speakers sharing a channel so the students who are remote cannot interact seamlessly with everyone else. I had to keep darting over to my computer to see if they had questions and sometimes they would talk but there wouldn’t be audio so everyone would have to be silent to see what was happening which wasted a lot of time. It was like running two entirely separate classes. Then I discovered that the OWL cannot read my handwriting on the whiteboard. I tried in darker markers — no deal. I finished the class dead-tired and nearly in tears from angry stress and it was only 11:20.

I tried to talk to my principal. I told him that I needed advice on what to do because my room was extremely hot, but with the remote students needing the OWL I couldn’t go outside (or use another classroom as we would have done in the past because of COVID cleaning restrictions) but to stay in the room, we needed the fans on which created impossible noise and the students couldn’t read the board. My principle replied, “You’re going to have to learn how to use One Note and run your class that way then,” and shrugged. I felt like scratching his face off. There was one more class in the afternoon with one more missing student (same deal- noisy fans, I really couldn’t hear her at all, it was depressing)- and then I got on the bus for the train back to the city. I have never felt so exhausted, depleted, and worn out on a first day of school.

The teachers were required to come back to work again on Aug 10. When they told us they invested in these OWL cameras for our classes, they didn’t mention that they couldn’t focus on the whiteboards. If they had, I would have been prepared for this. When One Note was brought up, it was just a useful tool for remote learning, but I am now envisioning my in-person class on their laptops, me on my laptop typing stuff into “One Note”, and not using my whiteboard at all. How does that represent in-person instruction? I am in favor of real in-person instruction. Otherwise, I’d rather go all remote now. And I haven’t even mentioned trying to teach French to French 1 students while wearing a mask. I’ll leave that to you.

No idea what the other teachers/relatives of teachers might make of all this … or the people with children going back to school. I’m curious … despite being so evidently frazzled.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Just have the in-person kids log in to see the online version from within the classroom.

    Edit: Finished reading. Looks like you’ve figured it out. 😉 (Yes, it’s a horrible solution.)

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Great post, Giulietta! You explain the problems very well for those of us who aren’t educators. Hope things improve. 

    • #2
  3. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    Wow, just shaking my head. And they had all summer – actually more than that – to work on how to handle this.

    • #3
  4. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Just have the in-person kids log in to see the online version from within the classroom.

    Edit: Finished reading. Looks like you’ve figured it out. 😉 (Yes, it’s a horrible solution.)

    Ray Bradbury, call your office.

    • #4
  5. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    Wow, just shaking my head. And they had all summer – actually more than that – to work on how to handle this.

    Thanks, Matt. That really is close to the root of it, isn’t it.

    To cut to the conclusion, we’re witness today to a breakdown of the civilizational fringe. Competence has receded from the capillaries.

    Here’s a different analogy for people in logistics: we’ve lost the last mile.

    • #5
  6. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Ain’t technology grand?

    Why not have one class for in-person instruction and another class for remote rather than trying to mix them?

    • #6
  7. Poindexter Member
    Poindexter
    @Poindexter

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Ain’t technology grand?

    Why not have one class for in-person instruction and another class for remote rather than trying to mix them?

    Then you would need two teachers for each class, or one teacher doing twice as much work.

    • #7
  8. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Private schools are in a tough position here, but what you are being asked to do is going to deliver substandard education by default. 

    • #8
  9. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge
    DonG (skeptic)
    @DonG

    Poindexter (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Ain’t technology grand?

    Why not have one class for in-person instruction and another class for remote rather than trying to mix them?

    Then you would need two teachers for each class, or one teacher doing twice as much work.

    I think the question assumed there are multiple rooms per grade. Most Catholic schools don’t have that many students. If there are two rooms per grade, they might be on different tracts. 

    • #9
  10. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Ain’t technology grand?

    Why not have one class for in-person instruction and another class for remote rather than trying to mix them?

    Well we are a small school and with our schedules, it’s not quite feasible to do “double” periods.

    Admin did change our schedules so teachers have to be at work at 7:45am and class starts at 9am. That period is a check-in time for remote students who have questions. I would suggest utilizing that time as you suggested- focus on remote students then and during reg class time, focus on in-person students. It just seems practical. However some kids might report to their parents that they feel ignored in the virtual classroom if teachers decide to do that. Ufff.

    • #10
  11. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    Poindexter (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Ain’t technology grand?

    Why not have one class for in-person instruction and another class for remote rather than trying to mix them?

    Then you would need two teachers for each class, or one teacher doing twice as much work.

    I think the question assumed there are multiple rooms per grade. Most Catholic schools don’t have that many students. If there are two rooms per grade, they might be on different tracts.

    True. My biggest class is 7 total. 3 of them are remote so only 4 are in-class. It is small, but that was the main class I described in the post so it was a lot more running around than you can imagine. 

    • #11
  12. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    Wow, just shaking my head. And they had all summer – actually more than that – to work on how to handle this.

    Thanks, Matt. That really is close to the root of it, isn’t it.

    To cut to the conclusion, we’re witness today to a breakdown of the civilizational fringe. Competence has receded from the capillaries.

    Here’s a different analogy for people in logistics: we’ve lost the last mile.

    They really think they hit the nail on the head. My principal is so proud of what they have done. 

    • #12
  13. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Ain’t technology grand?

    Why not have one class for in-person instruction and another class for remote rather than trying to mix them?

    Well we are a small school and with our schedules, it’s not quite feasible to do “double” periods.

    Admin did change our schedules so teachers have to be at work at 7:45am and class starts at 9am. That period is a check-in time for remote students who have questions. I would suggest utilizing that time as you suggested- focus on remote students then and during reg class time, focus on in-person students. It just seems practical. However some kids might report to their parents that they feel ignored in the virtual classroom if teachers decide to do that. Ufff.

    Okay. Didn’t understand that limitation. Schools I always went to were big with big classes.

    • #13
  14. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    Wow, just shaking my head. And they had all summer – actually more than that – to work on how to handle this.

    Thanks, Matt. That really is close to the root of it, isn’t it.

    To cut to the conclusion, we’re witness today to a breakdown of the civilizational fringe. Competence has receded from the capillaries.

    Here’s a different analogy for people in logistics: we’ve lost the last mile.

    They really think they hit the nail on the head. My principal is so proud of what they have done.

    Well yeah! 

    He bought stuff! 

    • #14
  15. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    TBA (View Comment):

    Private schools are in a tough position here, but what you are being asked to do is going to deliver substandard education by default.

    The school is very small- just 130 HS students- and admission numbers have been very low. The public schools nearby are terrific and high-achieving (even during remote) which compounded this need to make these promises.

    • #15
  16. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Giulietta: And I haven’t even mentioned trying to teach French to French 1 students while wearing a mask. I’ll leave that to you.

    These might help….

    4 Pcs Reusable Clear Mouth Mask With Window Visible Expression

    • #16
  17. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Giulietta: And I haven’t even mentioned trying to teach French to French 1 students while wearing a mask. I’ll leave that to you.

    These might help….

    4 Pcs Reusable Clear Mouth Mask With Window Visible Expression

    Take the picture already, I can’t hold my breath forever! 

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Ain’t technology grand?

    Why not have one class for in-person instruction and another class for remote rather than trying to mix them?

    Well we are a small school and with our schedules, it’s not quite feasible to do “double” periods.

    Admin did change our schedules so teachers have to be at work at 7:45am and class starts at 9am. That period is a check-in time for remote students who have questions. I would suggest utilizing that time as you suggested- focus on remote students then and during reg class time, focus on in-person students. It just seems practical. However some kids might report to their parents that they feel ignored in the virtual classroom if teachers decide to do that. Ufff.

    Okay. Didn’t understand that limitation. Schools I always went to were big with big classes.

    It’s a tougher logistical issue than I would expect someone with no experience to get done in less than a couple of months.

    • #18
  19. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Giulietta: And I haven’t even mentioned trying to teach French to French 1 students while wearing a mask. I’ll leave that to you.

    These might help….

    4 Pcs Reusable Clear Mouth Mask With Window Visible Expression

    Thanks but I do imagine that fogging up immediately!

    • #19
  20. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    As stated above, this is a very hard time for private schools. The California principal for whom I work long-distance has been an effective leader through the shutdowns, keeping teachers, staff, and families rallied. But it takes an enormous amount of time and energy. I hope the concerns about enrollment and all the virus hoops to jump through (lots of paperwork to finally be allowed to open on campus) don’t end up being overwhelming to the point that it’s impossible to do anymore. It feels pretty stinkin’ unfair sometimes, that due to events beyond our control, our thriving, non-elite school faces a possibility of having to shut down (but we all hope not).

    We aren’t doing the hybrid model . . . yet. I guess the arrangement we’ve made is that we will go to that for students who need to be at home for one reason or another. I do not know what the plans are to make this work (and not sure what our population of international students will/ are doing). I need to find out. I don’t think we’re using any special programs–perhaps a Google app. Maybe I’ll reply to this post once I find out, especially if it seems to work well.

    I think that the first few days will be the hardest, and as you go on, you’ll work out the bugs and it will all become less frustrating. But wow, it would be tremendously frustrating to have, as you did, that important first day feel like it has been ruined.

    Do you follow Dave Stuart? He has been encouraging for teachers in this mess. Another helpful one, whose posts are all on target, is Smart Classroom Management. SCM will inspire confidence for keeping high expectations for students, even during a pandemic. Teach Like a Champion comes in third, with posts that try to capture what is really most effective for teaching online. Here is Stuart’s “How to Train Your Will to Want to Teach Again.” I also like his promotions of “Catchphrases.” Here is his blog with the list of most popular 2020 articles. And Stuart’s “Two Rules of Resilience” is something we shared with our teachers a few weeks, it seems like, before we knew anything about the shutdown. Our teachers were sharing the concept with our students. And then it all happened, and the timeliness of that article played a role in the faculty’s perseverance.

    • #20
  21. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    Wow, just shaking my head. And they had all summer – actually more than that – to work on how to handle this.

    Oh, I think the administration had a plan; just tell the teachers, “You work it out.”

    • #21
  22. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    Wow, just shaking my head. And they had all summer – actually more than that – to work on how to handle this.

    Oh, I think the administration had a plan; just tell the teachers, “You work it out.”

    Along with the regular loaded plate, our administration had their hands full all summer with Covid paperwork and online county health meetings, as well as nightly fielding of parent concerns via e-mail. Plus, even though parents were withdrawing their kids, there was a surge of interest at the same time, so that kept admin busy with campus tours, admissions testing, etc.

    That said, I don’t think our administrator would have had the attitude of the principal in the OP. Our K-12 admin would have been all over a day of issues like that–especially proactively before it took place. Teachers are supported and heard. I apologize if that comes across obnoxious.

    • #22
  23. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Yuck on trying to teach in person and remote simultaneously. Our local government school district required parents to choose either on-line or in-person. The on-line students (about 25%) were assigned to their own classes with teachers from throughout the district (not necessarily from the student’s home school). The district recognized that on-line and in-person requires different teaching methods.

    • #23
  24. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    Wow, just shaking my head. And they had all summer – actually more than that – to work on how to handle this.

    The important thing in making decisions is to not ask for input from people who might ask difficult questions. It just slows down the decision-making process and makes it too inefficient.

    • #24
  25. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker
    @CarolJoy

    If I could appoint myself Chief Queen Bee at your school:

    Why not have the classroom videotaped, with no access of that presentation for the stay at home crowd until the next day? That way you can focus on the in person people with full attention. Then the next day, the at home crowd can watch the recorded video, and email whatever questions they happen to have. Those could be addressed at the beginning of the third day’s classroom presentations. 

    It’s not perfect, but it certainly would eliminate the problem of not being heard by the in home crowd due to the noise of the fans.

    It is also possible that some of the at home crowd could email you short videos of themselves where they offer up a presentation or ask question on their videos to you. (A lot of young people are quite adept at making videos of themselves.)

    • #25
  26. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker
    @CarolJoy

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Yuck on trying to teach in person and remote simultaneously. Our local government school district required parents to choose either on-line or in-person. The on-line students (about 25%) were assigned to their own classes with teachers from throughout the district (not necessarily from the student’s home school). The district recognized that on-line and in-person requires different teaching methods.

    That sounds like you have a remarkably competent group of people making decisions about the situation.

    Congratualtions, as it certainly doesn’t seem to occur very often these days.

    • #26
  27. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker (View Comment):

    If I could appoint myself Chief Queen Bee at your school:

    Why not have the classroom videotaped, with no access of that presentation for the stay at home crowd until the next day? That way you can focus on the in person people with full attention. Then the next day, the at home crowd can watch the recorded video, and email whatever questions they happen to have. Those could be addressed at the beginning of the third day’s classroom presentations.

    It’s not perfect, but it certainly would eliminate the problem of not being heard by the in home crowd due to the noise of the fans.

    It is also possible that some of the at home crowd could email you short videos of themselves where they offer up a presentation or ask question on their videos to you. (A lot of young people are quite adept at making videos of themselves.)

    A big problem is that my admin hasn’t defined what hybrid means for us. Thus far I’m guessing admin thinks we teach everyone all together as a fully integrated class- it doesn’t matter “where” the student is. 

    You’re right though- the best thing to do would be to focus on the in-person students During class and then use the morning time for the remote students to ask questions one-on-one and go over things together. That I can manage. I just wonder whether this will be contradict the school’s perception of “hybrid” and lead to a torrent of angry parents and irritating conversations with my principal who will ask me in his usual fake-caring, utterly passive-aggressive way why I’m not doing my job. 

     

    • #27
  28. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Yuck on trying to teach in person and remote simultaneously. Our local government school district required parents to choose either on-line or in-person. The on-line students (about 25%) were assigned to their own classes with teachers from throughout the district (not necessarily from the student’s home school). The district recognized that on-line and in-person requires different teaching methods.

    That sounds like you have a remarkably competent group of people making decisions about the situation.

    Congratulations, as it certainly doesn’t seem to occur very often these days

    You certainly did get all the competent people. But hell, I’m in Illinois. Competence here isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for running an organization of any size or scale.

    • #28
  29. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Giulietta (View Comment):
    You certainly did get all the competent people here. But hell, this is Illinois. Competence here isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for running an organization of any size or scale. 

    All of the competent people left years ago.

    • #29
  30. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker
    @CarolJoy

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Yuck on trying to teach in person and remote simultaneously. Our local government school district required parents to choose either on-line or in-person. The on-line students (about 25%) were assigned to their own classes with teachers from throughout the district (not necessarily from the student’s home school). The district recognized that on-line and in-person requires different teaching methods.

    That sounds like you have a remarkably competent group of people making decisions about the situation.

    Congratulations, as it certainly doesn’t seem to occur very often these days

    You certainly did get all the competent people. But hell, I’m in Illinois. Competence here isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for running an organization of any size or scale.

    Back when I lived in Illinois organizations were run by competent people. (I left in 1981.) Sad to hear it is following California into the massive Brain Dead Zombie Syndrome my state is so well known for.

    California legislators are so massively brain dead that in the 1990’s, they allowed hospital admins to cut back on the number of licensed vocational nurses (LVN’s). “Nursing assistants can do their jobs just as well! Plus they will be cheaper.”

    Of course it took the public about 6 years to realize that cutting a nursing staff back to bare bones and replacing 2/3rds of the nurses with people who had half the education was not a winning recipe for good health among hospital patients.

    The public demanded the legislators do something to fix the situation. So for six months the state legislators agonized about what to do. They had ideas about exciting new titles for some type of interim nurse who would be something more than a nursing assistant but would not be a full fledged RN. No one could agree on which exciting new title should be used. Nor could they decide on what the college course work should be or how many units should be required.

    Not once in all their many, many, m-a-n-y meetings did it ever occur to to them to say, “Well maybe we should just stipulate that LVN’s come back aboard to staff the hospital in the numbers we used to insist on.”

    I never did figure out if all these squabbles went on as they all really were that stupid, or if they simply felt the public needed to see them all so hard at work over absolutely nothing, as a ploy for their re-election.

    Around the same time, people started saying that term limits were a very good idea.

    ####

    • #30