BACK TO SCHOOL, PANDEMIC, HYBRID & DISTANCE LEARNING STYLE

Back to school this year is like no other year. I have opted for smiling and nodding with every plan proposal, knowing that nothing is definite until that plan is in action in real time. Fully back to school, hybrid, distance learning, or other, there are endless possibilities for back to school. What works today may not work tomorrow. The plan of action could be flipped on its head the following week. So much is in the air that my school has decided to evaluate our school plan every two weeks, with potential of change EVERY TWO WEEKS!

I am a planner. I lay out my semester and year long calendar in August, type of planner. Re-evaluating every two weeks just doesn’t do it for me. But I am coming to terms with the fact that nothing about this school year is going to do it for me. I will go into school everyday thankful for the opportunity to teach art to students that day, because who knows if I will see them tomorrow.

Despite so many unknowns the planner in me just won’t go away. So check out my school’s plan and my plan for the many options facing us in just two weeks, including hybrid and distance learning models.

MY SCHOOL’S PLAN:

“Flexibility is the key to stability” I will remind myself often of this. My school has opted to start the year in a hybrid model. Brief explanation: in an effort to meet the social distancing guidelines to best protect the students, they have split the student body in half based on their last name. A-J will be on campus on A days and home on B days. K-Z will be on campus on B days and at home on A days. Everyone on campus must wears masks and social distance.

Students who are home will still “attend” a full day of classes by live streaming the class from home. That means teachers will be teaching students physically in the room with a camera set up so they can interact with those at home distance learning. I have no idea what the logistics of this looks like, this is where smiling and nodding come in. It will be a crash course from day one.

In two weeks my school will look at the situation. They plan to contact trace any case of COVID that arises on campus to quarantine anyone who had close contact. If cases have a sharp increase we shift to distance learning. As of now, the plan with distance learning is to livestream every class period, with shorter class lengths and time between classes for flexibility. We have to log in to touch base with our class, but if they have work to do individually they can sign out to work on it.

If in two weeks everything is going well, no cases have shown up, then there is a chance we could move towards the entire student body back on campus at the same time. I think this possibility is least likely based on current conditions in the United States. But, when we were let out of school mid-March I also thought I would be back in two weeks. Intuition is meaningless in the era of a global pandemic.

MY HYBRID MODEL PLAN:

The hybrid model of back to school is a good solution for actual social distancing during the school day. However, sending students home with their projects every other day (and expecting them to remember to bring everything back) is unrealistic.

Because of that I am planning on assigning consecutive projects for students to work on in class and at home. In my advanced 2D and painting classes I will run projects as normal. I plan to follow my curriculums, starting with sketchbook making and moving to introduction to watercolor and a collage project.

For my students at home I have a lot of prep work to do. Some ideas I have thrown around is having visual journals as an at home project only. However, that limits them to only a handful of supplies unless I risk my supplies leaving my room and potentially (likely) never returning. I have also considered more heavily incorporating art history in my class, something I have always lacked (I have a few art history resources here). I may also have them start on the beginning stages of the next project, sketching out ideas, researching artists, or sketching their base drawings.

I am teaching a brand new course next year, Introduction to Design, that I am beyond excited about. I have already started developing lessons for it (check out what I have so far on my TPT) and have a ton of work ahead to wrap up the curriculum. The best part of this course is its 99% computer based and focuses on learning programs in the Adobe Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Spark, and more). We are a one to one school so all of my students already have laptops and access to the Adobe Suite. The hybrid or distance learning models function great with this type of course.

Although it is going to take a lot of extra time, I know I can make this work. I do have to remind myself that nothing is going to look perfect or be perfect so I need to ditch my planning neuroses at the door.

MY DISTANCE LEARNING PLAN

Part of me feels distance learning is inevitable. Numbers have finally started to plateau in the US after months of climbing. But, as soon as we start to get that stability back we are sending millions back to school.

For the well being and mental health of our students, I hope distance learning is not in our future, but as a planner, I will consider all options this year.

Although our spring format was very different than what my school has planned if we return to distance learning, I was still fairly happy with the projects I assigned. We started with a coronavirus visual journal reflection. Students brainstormed ideas, researched the virus, then developed a spread that reflected their opinions and feeling about the pandemic. I received some beautiful pages from my students.

A coronavirus inspired spread by an Advanced 2D student.
A coronavirus and distance learning inspired spread by an Advanced 2D student.

I was also really happy with my Artist Trading Card project that I completed in all my classes. Students created mini works of art that they mailed to both students in their classes and faculty at school. It was such a great project because of the process, sending and receiving mail, and the outreach to each other. I will absolutely do this project again if we head back into distance learning.

Artist trading cards and a letter created during distance learning.

Which project was a huge fail? When I allowed students to develop their own final project. I gave few parameters since the supplies they had at home varied so much. My kiddos turned in a range of final pieces from things that looked like it was slapped together in five minutes to really beautiful works of art. Even when we aren’t in the same room together, my students really need my guidance to ensure they all have the same level of creative exploration.

In addition to this post, I also wrote a blog post about distance learning plans here. I talked so much about the possibility of heading back to school at some point in the spring, oh how naive early April me was.

In addition to advanced 2D, painting, and intro to design I also teach yearbook. Yearbook is undoubtedly going to be more of a beast than normal. I will have to create an entirely separate blog post to tackle it. Yearbook advisors, I see you, I stress with you, it will be okay (because it has to be).

Good luck as you head back to the school year. If you need any pre-made lessons, worksheets, distance learning ideas, curriculums or more check out my blog shop and my Teachers Pay Teachers shop. In addition to middle and high school products, my mom and I have been collaborating on and creating elementary projects for traditional art rooms and distance learning. Thanks for checking out this post, help me share ideas for this school year by sharing with others and subscribing. Thanks for stopping by!

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