David Wasser teaches Technology to 6th grade students, and a Robotics elective in the high school at Moses Brown. He also coaches the Robotics teams in both the Middle School and High School.
At first teaching under the new guidelines, issued because of Covid, was quite challenging. It’s gotten much better, and is going very well. The students are coming to school. They must wear masks and be socially distanced. The middle school offers grades 6, 7 and 8. The children belong to a pod. There are 4 or 5 pods per grade with 13 or 14 kids per pod. The children in the middle school stay in the same room and the various teachers come to them. The desks are 3 feet apart and have shields. The windows are partly open. Hepa filters have been installed into the ventilation system, there are air ionizers in each classroom, and hand sanitizer is available.
Teaching is more difficult. The teachers must stay at the front of the room and not walk up and down the aisles or intermingle with the students. So, it’s harder to build close relationships with the students. Most of these students have been attending Moses Brown for several years, thus know each other. However, if a new student enters the class, the barriers that have been put in place make it very difficult for the new student to get to know his or her classmates. Each pod of 13 or 14 students is in a different room, so there’s a loss of intimacy.
None of the students in the Middle School have gotten sick from Covid. There may have been a very small number of situations where students, who may have been a close contact of a positive case, have been asked to quarantine out of an abundance of caution. The students have an App on their phones with a check list that they must fill out every morning in order to attend school. If they have any Covid symptoms or possible covid exposure, they’re not allowed to come into the school, and can then attend virtually.
Initially, one of the big stresses for David was that he had to rethink and reconstruct his approach to teaching a subject, that he’s taught for several years, in order to comply with the new reality. Some students are learning virtually. As David faces the class, the virtual learners are joining the class on a camera behind his head. David has to remember to include the virtually learning students.
David feels very fortunate to be teaching at a school that has the necessary resources to enable this new reality. There’s a big touch screen, and a special conference camera that can turn 360 degrees. The camera is sound sensitive and turns to the person who is talking, so the virtual learners can see their classmates.
The current set up makes it difficult for David to interact with his colleagues. Each grade is on a separate floor. They’re no longer eating in the cafeteria. If it’s not too cold they eat lunch outdoors which is followed by recess. If it’s too cold the students eat in the classroom. The children are not allowed to talk while they’re eating inside, so David puts a Bob Ross film onto the screen while they’re eating. The children are so fascinated and watch so intently that they remain quiet.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccine. David hopes that things will be better by the fall.
To destress David plays music and connects with friends outside wearing masks and socially distancing. David feels very fortunate to be able to interact with his students face to face, which in and of itself is spirit lifting.