Okay… so 11 months later… wow I’m really not good at blogging regularly! I need to add blogging to my calendar. If there is anything that I have learned in the past 11 months … I have learned that if it’s not in my calendar it does not get done. I live and die by my calendar these days. So here’s the 11 month update…
Virtual teaching is AH.MAZ.ING!!! It is definitely a LOT of work and I have realized that I am in fact a type-A personality. It is so hard to step away and S.T.O.P. working when there are no custodians to kick you out of the building! There is always “just one more thing” to do. I was getting better at putting my work – life and my family – life in balance and then … SUMMER!
Yes, summer, that time of year that most teachers look longingly forward to all year, dreaming of sleeping in, going to the beach, traveling, curling up with a good book (Mr. Grey & Ms. Steele … wooo!), and of course the planning for the new school year (righting all the wrongs of years gone by), workshops, and professional development. Most of all summer is the time when teachers recharge their batteries. It is a much-needed break from the insanity that is the school year.
Prisoners of Time is a publication that, “resulted from the 1991 federal legislation that created the National Education Commission on Time and Learning (PL 102-62), whose sponsors included Senators Jeff Bingaman, Edward M. Kennedy, Claiborne Pell, and Mark Hatfield and Representatives William D. Ford and Dale E. Kildee.”  It’s interesting to me that the idea to shake things up in education started in 1965 (see the letter on page 1), the report was originally published in 1994 and the version above is the 2005 reprint. An abridged version of this report was emailed to me with my interview day instructions. In addition to the other instructions I was told to read the report as it is “the cornerstone of FLVS philosophy and integral to our work.” In virtual learning, because students are able to work at their own pace, they are no longer prisoners of time as they are in physical schools.
Why did I mention Prisoners of Time when speaking of the bliss that is summer? Well, because in the virtual world summer does not exist as it does in the world of physical school because students are NOT prisoners of time! In physical school at the end of the school year if the student hasn’t yet mastered the standards they are assigned a failing grade and have to repeat the course, in the virtual world given the same scenario, the student continues working until they master the standards and are assigned the grade they earn. During the 8 – 9 weeks of summer I have students (some who were assigned a D or F at the end of their 180 days in the course and others wanting to get ahead) trying to complete a course that is paced out for 32 – 36 weeks. So instead of completing 5 assignments per week their task is to complete 21 – 22 assignments per week and now multiply that not by the 150 students that I normally have but by the load of 175 students (upped due to a waiting list for the course of over 2000 students – our course is VERY popular during the summer) and you have one very busy summer!
Life balance is OUT. THE. WINDOW.
Here’s the craziest part… I still LOVE my job! First was the insanity of senior season, then closing out the school year and now … the insanity of summer. The one thing that I know is that when August rolls around in a little less than a month and I start to get loaded with kids needed to complete the course in 32 – 36 weeks that I am going to feel as though I am on vacation!
I was told that the learning curve for this job was one full year, and nothing could be more true. I am looking forward to that time of year but for now, I’m managing to keep my head above water by clearing my grading every day. I’m nervous about catching up after this 5 day respite we were given for the Fourth of July, however in the meantime I am enjoying the downtime. Today, I fixed two of the computers in my house, had lunch with one of my FLVS colleagues and her daughter, watched some TV and did some reading. All in all, a very relaxing and wonderful day off! My Instructional Leader (Principal) instructed us to shut down the black box, step away and enjoy time with our families. I didn’t finish my grading on Tuesday so I finished on Wednesday morning and shut the laptop down. I have not touched it nor have I looked at my email, text or voice mail messages. I am soooo tempted to peek and see how much work my students have submitted, but I have managed, thus far, not to. It is an incredible struggle because I know that my stress level is directly proportional to how much work is in my inbox UNgraded.
Most likely, I’ll check it tomorrow and possibly do some grading so that I don’t have a horrible week next week. My routine is to empty my inbox on Sunday evening, pull my data from the previous week and get my progress reports sent or ready to be sent on Sunday. Last week that meant going to bed at 3:30am on Monday morning. I know how horrible that sounds, HOWEVER it allowed me to have an awesome Monday. Not only did I sleep until 8am, but I was able to focus on my students, call parents, and tie up loose ends before the 4th. Tuesday was not quite as successful due to a series of horrible DBAs (Discussion Based Assessments), but sometimes that happens.
So, for now, I am looking forward to the end of summer and the beginning of the “physical school” year and then Staff Conference in September! I will be registering on Monday morning for conference and although I attended last year and it was awesome, I didn’t know enough to really appreciate it. Now that I have nearly a year under my belt, I can hardly wait to be in Orlando at the Hilton with all of my colleagues. I hope to blog again soon, at the very least before conference!
 Prisoners of Time. Rep. Denver, CO: ECS EDUCATION REFORM REPRINT SERIES, 2005. Prisoners of Time. Report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning Reprinted with a New Introduction and Examples. Funded by a Grant from Washington Mutual to the Education Commission of the States, with Support from Learning Point Associates. Web. 05 July 2012..