Course Five – Blog Post 2
*** I want to say before I begin, that while I fully intend to complain about quite a few issues I am facing these days, I know that they are nothing compared to what others are facing this very moment. I have just come from reading Danielle Richert’s blog post “A Call for Help”, about the very real and terrifying situation she, her school community, and her country are facing in Ukraine right now. I stand with Ukraine! God bless you and keep you safe. ***
Okay, that title is perhaps a bit overdramatic, but with the way last week shook out and how this coming week is shaping up, I felt that to be a fitting description. “What is so problematic?” you might ask, well let’s start with last week and a problem that I am sure teachers all around the world are familiar with, loss of instructional time for special events.
The Special Event Time Suck
It has been so many years since I was a teacher in the US so I know things are not necessarily the same these days, but at least back then I didn’t really have an appreciation for the time suck that is special events. I mean sure there were a few here and there, like the holiday concert, or field day, however, for the most part, I looked forward to a little time off from my regular schedule. Oh, how I miss those days!
Once I moved overseas, I learned so much more about trying to manage the loss of instructional time to these events. Most of these events are types of concerts or school plays. Having spent many years of my overseas experience in Asia I understand how important these types of shows are in the local culture. Generally speaking, I have found that there is an expectation for about two large-scale shows a year. Depending on the age of my students this might have been a simple song and dance, or a full-out play production. But it is actually a little bit of a lie to say something like “a simple song and dance”. Because honestly, it is never simple. Parents and school admin have very high expectations for the students’ performance and you are going to need a lot of time to practice. That time has to come from somewhere, so good-bye regularly scheduled lessons.
This past Friday, the students at my school starting in first grade and going all the way through middle school performed their “Spring Showcase”. This was a very large concert/production originally planned for before the Lunar New Year holiday. However, due to renovations on the school auditorium running behind schedule, it was delayed for a month. This show is very important for the school community, as the Lunar New Year is an exceptionally important holiday here in China.
For the most part, I can be grateful that the Chinese teachers took the lead on designing the production and teaching the students their song and dance. However, that did not mean I got off scot-free. As the show date approached, more and more practice was needed. When originally there were two planned one-hour practices, they slowly morphed into five, one-hour sessions. These extra practices were not planned and often announced with only a day’s notice. This left me shifting lessons around or cutting out lessons. Top that off with the showcase taking place during the school day, between changing clothes, setting up, and the actual show time, that was the last three hours of our Friday, gone.
All that lost time really cut into my Energy Unit. I tried very hard to limit the impact to any particular subject, however, as a PYP school, the unit is pretty well integrated across many subjects, so anytime time lost was biting into the overall unit. We are about to start the fourth week of the unit, and I would say we are about a week behind schedule.
Let’s catch up next week, oh wait…..
After so many years of managing these types of time losses, I consider myself a fairly resourceful lady. I can make small cuts here and there and catch up on a good amount of lost time. Typically, a week or two of nose-to-the-grindstone pacing can get us just about back on track. Well, enter the return of a new classic… Covid spike and online learning.
Working in China, we have been very lucky so far this year. We have had in-person learning for the entire year so far. I know this has been so incredibly rare, and I know of so many friends and acquaintances who have not had this advantage. So perhaps, it is not fair of me to complain now.
But can we talk about terrible timing! Just when I need to push my students harder than ever to catch up, we are facing a very real threat of moving to online learning. This past weekend, my city has gone from 5 cases to more than 100, and while that sounds like nothing in most countries these days, let me tell you, in China, it is a huge deal. Especially given that most of the cases came from a school. Today, we have been frantic trying to find out what will happen and to make plans for moving online.
Because we have been in person for the whole year, we haven’t used video lessons or live calls as a class yet. My students haven’t done any online learning in more than a year, and even then it was only for 10 days. Their last extended period of online school was when they were in second grade, now they are 4th graders, so the expectations will be quite different.
My unit relied heavily on hands-on experiments with my students working with their classmates, which could be impossible very soon. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it. As of right now, Sunday night at 8 pm, we are still allowed to go to school tomorrow. There will be a whole school Covid testing happening in the next day or two (good-bye more lesson time). We will cross our fingers and pray for all negative results, but that might not be enough. If the case numbers continue to climb we will be going online.
What can I do?
As a teacher and member of the school community, I make every effort to be a problem-solver. I don’t like to complain about things unless I am also willing to offer suggestions for fixing them. In this case, however, there is nothing I can do. Going online will be decided based on what is best for the health and safety of our community, and that is what is most important.
As for the time used for special events? That is something I have to try and make peace with every year that I live and work overseas. It is just part of the package and I might not always like it, but it is important to the local culture, so I will try my best to embrace it.
It was a really great show, after all!