Safety Quality Equity
ONE JOB ONE EDUCATOR
I will try to give you a comprehensive picture of the current elementary specialists' issues:
Specialists have been concerned about hybrid and remote instruction since the beginning of the planning stages in the summer. The biggest obstacle to both situations is the deployment of specialist staff. When we first began school in the fall, specialists tried to get everyone on board to teach grade level bands and/or to readjust deployments so that specialist programs are less fragmented, making the best of the remote teaching situation for students and staff alike, the goal being consistent, quality instruction for students. We were told flat out that deployments could not change even though specialist assignments were made with no considerations about COVID concerns. Some principals created a standard schedule as if everything was normal and some principals created building schedules based on guidance that only had enough time in the school day scheduled for specialists to teach all of a grade level at the same time. We have all made the best of a bad situation for remote learning.
We are now in a very difficult situation with hybrid learning where we will have students who need instruction in PE and Music on days when their specialist teacher is not scheduled at their school. Or we have teachers who are teaching half of the class at home and half of the class in the classroom with the classroom teacher as the monitor. This is NOT an effective use of anyone's time and energy. The classroom teacher only gets 2 days of instruction with their students and they have to be classroom monitors for PE and/or Music classes which cannot be taught to their fullest potential because we can't do singing, wind instruments or movement in the classroom (in person). We also have the additional issue of asynchronous lessons. Some of these are scheduled on days when the students are in person, however it is unclear if they will have 1 to 1 devices at school or not. (Some specialists have been told yes they will bring them back and forth to school and some have been told no they won't). It is also unclear whether we will be able to have students use supplies (such as rhythm instruments) in face to face instruction or if they will have to leave those at home. There is no plan for specialists classes from the district, and it has not even been considered.
No one from the district has asked elementary specialists what we have thought about returning to school. No one has accessed our ideas. We have not been invited into the conversation by the district, a full 10 months into this pandemic situation. We've been thinking outside the box and trying to problem solve since March of 2020. The administrators at CAB haven't thought at all about what our jobs are like or about how we are working harder than ever to reach students and bring them the joy and excitement of PE and Music. They just keep thanking us for our flexibility while showing none of their own. We are to the breaking point.
Can we make it work? Yes, of course we can. Will it be what's best for students? Probably not. Will it be what's best for classroom teachers? Probably not. Will it be what's best for families? Probably not. Will it be what's best for our specialists teachers? Definitely not. Will it be best for our specialist programs? Definitely not. How many of the elementary specialists are looking for other work once this is over? You should ask.....you may be surprised.
It's the district's turn to be flexible. Give specialists time and flexibility to move their schedules around to make students' educational experiences better. Get the principals to allow changes to schedules so that students can fully access PE and music. Elementary students will be home for 3 days a week. Why can't PE and Music live classes be rescheduled for those times so they can fully participate? It is possible if the district and principals are flexible with deployments. I would bet that if anyone asked, there is at least one specialist at each elementary building who has a great idea of how to solve this problem for their building and situation in order to make the students' education better and to make the classroom teacher's job easier. We need to be included in the solutions and planning. We need TEA to stand up for us and our colleagues who will be trying to implement this poorly thought out plan.
Even our professional development for this week devolved into a problem solving session for how to teach during the latest iteration of a badly planned return to school that we have been left out of planning. We are now not even able to use our reserved professional time for the purpose intended.
So, do we forge ahead with little planning and lots of stress and inequitable access to specialist education or do we pause for a moment to make some complete plans? What is TEA going to do? What is TPS going to do?
Sherman Elementary Music Teacher