Safety Quality Equity
ONE JOB ONE EDUCATOR
At the beginning of this year, the district directed building administrators to plan for elementary PE and Music specialists to provide one live lesson and one independent lesson to each class. However, that policy was neither formalized with the union nor officially adopted by district leadership and written down. Now, as hybrid learning learning ramps up, we have been told that the district is giving building leadership the flexibility to adjust their schedules as they see fit.
One of my principals kept the schedule as is with one live/one independent a week, but because of this “flexibility,” one principal decided to create a new hybrid specialist schedule with two live lessons a week - and also leave it up to classroom teachers when they wanted to adopt the new schedule. Now, in the same amount of allocated planning time, instead of planning for one live lesson per grade and one independent, I am planning for:
All of this extra planning is meant to somehow still fit within the allocated planning time of my contractual day, which is already insufficient for all of the prep work necessary for even mildly effective remote lessons. Either I will be unprepared for all of my lessons, or I will be working hours and hours past the end of my contracted day every day of the week. In one case I will be harming my students, and in the other I will be harming myself. Neither of those situations should be acceptable to a district which professes to care for the Whole Student and the Whole 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
As we plan for students returning to classrooms there a myriad of details to consider. As specialists we need to think it through and offer some solutions because it is unlikely that someone will do it for us.
Everyone is stressed. Principals desperate to cover all the bases are asking, "Would be a problem for Music and PE instruction to happen during student lunches?"
Now is the time for collective wisdom. While each of us is in a unique situation, each of us is an expert on what will work for us. Please share what's happening in your neck of the woods with union, admin. and Tacoma Specialist representatives so that we can identify disparate(desperate?) working conditions and make sure that our students and colleagues can have the best experience possible.
Here are a few points that have already been raised:
What is going to work, what are the problems?
-will we have classes split between those in person and those in home?
-will students have their laptops when they are in person?
-if students are in class for live lessons or even asynchronous will they have to bring their materials to school for specialists classes?
-what about specialists who are in a different buildings when the students are in person.
Regardless of what format we are in, we are only teaching one LIVE class per group per week.
-those who are at 2 schools CANNOT teach 2 live lessons per week because they are at a different school on days when asynchronous lessons are being delivered.
Return to school:
Seattle Public Schools will not return until March 1st.
Regardless of our job safety (we are home until everyone is back face-to-face), if you think it is too soon to return, please express that as well.
Click the button to see more information, reply to Shannon's request for input, contact your administrator, and to help us get an idea of what's going on district wide.