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Let's Teach In Pajamas Forever

by Kim Grant about a year ago in teacher
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I propose to make the nation's largest public school system completely online, contrary to my public activism and advocacy

I propose to make the nation's largest public school system completely online, contrary to my public activism and advocacy. This may shock some of you who have been following me for many years. However, I may have felt a bit jealous for some my most passionate detractors. I envy their way of speaking, walking, and working as though they have the whole theory of online education figured out. Instead of fighting them with the other contrarians in my little line, I am now in complete agreement with them.

This means that I will teach in sandals and pajamas, instead of my favorite sweaters or slacks. There are no exceptions.

It seemed absurd at first. Before the pandemic, I didn't think that tens or thousands of adults would be able to convert 1.1 million students into fully human beings. All their complexity and complexities were transformed into numbers and images moving about our monitors. But I was wrong. We beat former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former mayor Rahm Emeil, and former chancellor Michelle Rhee's total school closings in a week and one day.

The efficiency is also impressive to me.

It is amazing to think that companies like Zoom, Microsoft, and Google offer free services to educators to monitor students' interactions on their platforms. It is a delight to think that billion-dollar companies would be willing to enhance platforms they offer for thousands of dollars to Fortune 500 businesses for children as young and as young as five year olds. It was admirable that they, along with many tech companies, found time and space in their own hearts and flooded our inboxes, e-mails, about achievement gaps and "pandemic loss of learning" during the disaster. My colleagues and I believed we were doing our best to work as hard as possible when disaster capitalists called everyone and everything a disaster. I feel like we are in the middle a global epidemic. The constant emails asking us to measure grit or rigor has really ignited a passion to work harder.

Being a teacher who has 120 students, it's difficult to be present in person. I am grateful for the chance to share that negativity with students who are able to opt out. Problem solved.

It's also interesting that all those people who used to write blogs and earn tens or thousands of dollars for workshops in which they taught whole districts keyboard shortcuts are now the Profets. They must have a lot of social media metrics like Instagram likes and YouTube views. They began to fall into conversations about equity, where they might have had to deal with Black and brown children they don't consider full people. But COVID-19 ended that tension so well. Shouldn't we be grateful? We now have more time to read their books and buy their materials from the offhand teacher market, which doesn't verify the source of the materials.

For years, they have said that success is not about the platform but about the teacher. How they set up students' camera angles and the way they teach them has been a key factor in their success. That's what I agree with.

Despite all the smug and arbitrary stereotypes of lazy teachers and their powerful unions we can still lean on the stereotype and teach in our pajamas. No more waiting in long lines at the local supply shop for classroom materials and aesthetics. Microwavable lunches are gone. No more worrying about whether students will show up for class. Now educators only need to check if a student has logged in. There will be no need to tangle in emotions or bonds, because all we need is Wi-Fi access and ourselves. Progressive educators, whatever their meaning, can also claim that they won't need to follow any testing or schedules. If we just check our notifications every day, there is no labor rights or shady unions. It's almost every day.

The bell doesn't dictate whether we eat, drink, or talk. When we need them, the phone will notify us. Or not.

Administrators will need to be negotiated. We won't be in a position to tell if the administrator is watching our classes or...observing our classes. Administrators who are the best need to have 15 screens open for each software program Central asks them for daily. The worst administrators only need one screen for boring district meetings where they set up a fake background with a face and another for updating their Facebook about how difficult this job is. Administrators who are the best can simply take screenshots of random faces and make decisions from there. The worst administrators...well, they just keep doing what they are doing.

A principal who is able to lead the school from their homes and rally their staff would be a great choice. A single good link or emoji per day is more efficient than an entire assembly.

This is even good news for children. They don't have to decide which class they like best. Instead, they only have to worry about the word "Submitted." This means that there is no need to make jokes or engage in side conversations with teachers or fellow students. They can choose to not appear on the screen at any time. Critics who believe themselves to be "student-centered" while earning five- to six-figure salaries can now turn their attention/blogs/columns/tweets to critiquing the people who fund them. It doesn't matter if a teacher has too many worksheets or if they give projects that require too much printing. Now, the idea of "good" and "bad teachers is a matter of which teacher provides more original worksheets. They can submit assignments wherever they are and hope Google will give them the answers if the teacher isn’t available.

It's also a boon to parents. Parents can come to our classrooms at any time they like, and sit right next to their children. This avoids the "parent-teacher conference" drama. Parents don't need to worry about babysitting. They can easily add six hours to any screen time limit they have set.

Sure, I had dreams, too. As many of our colleagues, my dreams included a publicly-run system that was truly inclusive. Concentrating our efforts on the most vulnerable across identities would help us to lift the city and the entire world. We can close achievement gaps by fully funding schools and creating policies that consider race, class, disability, sexual orientation, shrinking class sizes, revising curriculum and pedagogy, elevating civics/social sciences, strengthening school and classroom climates, I believed. Teaching was a profession that cultivated parents and students voices and built strong academic and social emotional lenses. New York City seemed ready to have an integration conversation, even though disasters have only made matters worse.

Online schools don't require us to close any gaps. They can be jumped right over. Who wouldn't want this?


About the author

Kim Grant

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