Our Sudden Emergency
So I got an email from an access teacher asking me to put together a short post about how fucked up everything is in the Access Points Curriculum programs. I, in turn, asked the writer to give me 500 words about it that I could publish. I received over a thousand. I think it’s well worth the short read.
NOTE: With permission, I did subject the piece to some light editing.
What a Difference a Couple of Months Make
So here we are.
A couple of months have passed since the first accounts of a new virus circulated. The situation is dire. We don’t need to get into the latest details here; that’s what the news is for.
What is most important for all of us is to stay safe and healthy by staying home.
What is important now for us as remotely administered employees is to observe and acknowledge how the district is handling this crisis, and how we can improve things, across the board, in the event that something really severe like the COVID-19 crisis happens again.
After all, this is our profession. This is what we do.
The district’s response as a whole hasn’t been bad, especially considering that we’re talking about Pasco County Schools.
There are some problems. There are some glaring problems.
Now, here at the Withering Apple we are as sensitive to this new reality that has been thrust upon us as anyone else. We aren’t interested in piling criticism on people who are doing their best to do their best. We understand that this situation is new to everyone involved. We understand that district offices-based employees are trying to survive, just as we are.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t have some very salient observations to share, along with some very valid suggestions.
Based on what we’ve heard from more than a few Access Points Curriculum teachers and staff, Pasco’s handling of this new reality is a total fucking slow motion trainwreck.
It appears that the ladies over at the imaginatively named (Office for) Student Supports and Program Services (formerly known as the district ESE Department) were caught utterly off-guard. They literally had nothing ready.
Another bout of SSPS Horseshit
So, the rollout of distance learning was an abject clusterfuck.
First, we were told that our platform would be a near-mirror image of the general education portal. We were told to initiate contact with our students and inform them of the “plan.”
Well, that didn’t work at all. There were way too many glitches in the plan, as well as problems that arose from issues that the brilliant ones over at SSPS didn’t even consider. We don’t need to get into that right now either. I suspect that there will be more written about it before this is all over.
So, Plan B, as you might guess, went something like this:
“Euphemism-distraction-diversion-deflection-excuse-excuse-excuse-you access points teachers are just going to have to do all this shit yourselves, since it’s so fucking easy and you don’t have anything else to do anyway.”
In plan B, we were supposed to go in and download all the content, deliver it digitally to our students, one and all, upload 15 minute instructional videos every day for every content area, and meet via Zoom with our kids at least once per week for an hour. All that, in addition to trying to keep our own families safe, and trying to be involved in our own kids’ educations too.
That’s a tall order.
Well, luckily for us, the rug was yanked out from underneath us yet again, just as we started to get up to speed on Mickey Mouse Method #2.
Plan C is basically a return to Plan A, except that several people must have pulled their heads out of their asses and done something to fix the original fuckup (kind of).
So now, for totally unknown reasons, Access is mimicking GenEd. That makes absolutely no fucking sense at all, but hey, I’m only a teacher, so maybe I should leave the planning to the professionals at District.
There are still several glaring problems with trying to educate Supported and Participatory level students using an online platform. That’s more of a methodology-related question than it is a mechanical one, so we can revisit that in another post. There is plenty that needs to be said about it.
There is at least one problem that really needs to be fixed fast. When a student opens an assignment on the platform (MyLearning) that student can see everything: all three levels of instructional materials, as well as the lesson plans for each lesson. This is avoidable, but it will take actual effort on the part of the district office, and they’re kind of averse to that concept, from what we mere classroom teachers gather.
There are many reasons for this latest SSPS fiasco. Central to them all is Kurt Browning’s lack of knowledge about virtually every aspect of Exceptional Student Education in general, and in particular, Access Points programs. Another, very closely related reason is a near total absence of teacher input regarding any ESE issues whatsoever. We could count more, but it’s all been said, indeed written, before.
We hope that this pathetic position we are in, itself the result of another, truly horrible situation, bears some positive outcomes.
Perhaps the fuckups over at SSPS will spend less time issuing edicts and “Action Required” memos and actually start producing something of value themselves.
Perhaps Kurt Browning will wake up and shape up and send some, if not all, of his mini-Poohbahs packing, and then demand more than banana republic-style dictates from their replacements.
Perhaps the ladies over at SSPS will moderate their two-hour lunch regimen and start getting a few important things done.
Perhaps, that instead of constantly heaping more work on teachers, they will grab the mantle and do some of it themselves. As we’ve observed before, a lot of information dissemination, in this technology laden era, should not be the responsibility of classroom teachers. SSPS should do it. Maybe then we could teach a little more.
Perhaps this complete fucking disaster will knock the ladies at SSPS a few notches down their very hierarchical perception of the district office-teacher relationship.
Perhap this tragedy, a potential catastrophe, will entreat the district royalty to treat teachers as partners instead of subjects.
Perhaps Access programs will emerge from the shadows of mediocrity and shed the redheaded stepchild moniker they have endured for so long. Perhaps the parents of Access students can help, now that they’ve seen, firsthand, just how fucking stupid the situation can get when allowed.