As Culpeper County schools are about halfway through their first nine-week quarter, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Rob Hauman told the School Board Monday night that this is an opportune time to examine the past and plan for the future.
Local students, along with those worldwide, have ventured into new educational environments featuring either a mixture of in-person and remote learning or a complete virtual model.
Analogizing schools to sports via a PowerPoint presentation depicting coaching greats Phil Jackson and Bill Belichick, Hauman explained that halftime is a good time to prepare for the second half by looking back on what has happened.
This is accomplished, he said, by getting feedback, highlighting positives, focusing on strengths, keeping calm, allowing everyone to catch their breaths and making adjustments.
“So, we’re gonna ask all our principals to be really good coaches,” Hauman said.
Issues so far, he said, include that some students do not speak English and some have inadequate internet access. Therefore, he said, schools must find a “happy medium” between traditional expectations and the reality of a school year unfolding during a global pandemic.
As grading and attendance now matters, Hauman said that this fall cannot mirror last spring. While teachers have adapted to those facts, he said not all students have done so. Therefore, he said some teachers may need to make adjustments.
“We’ve got a number of teachers who set the bar as high as they can every year and some don’t want to leave that zone even though we’re in a very unusual situation,” he said.
For example, Hauman said teachers should not always give failing grades just because work is not turned in on time. He added that teachers must maximize instruction time when they are with students “and make every moment count.” If teachers are overloaded with grading, he noted that they control the assignments.
“It’s having conversations at this point and figuring out what steps we need to take,” he said.
In normal school years, Hauman noted that some students struggle despite having teachers reminding them to turn in work and receiving constant assistance from counselors.
“Now we have a large number of students that are at home where no one's tapping them on the shoulder and saying ‘hey, it’s 10:15, you need to jump on this science lesson’ or ‘you need to remember to turn in this paper’ or ‘hey, you need to wake up because it’s 11:30,’” he said.
While teachers are trying to reach students, Hauman said not all students are participating in online lessons and now is the time to “sit back and talk about some of the things that we’ve heard about” such as workloads.
School Board member Patricia Baker noted that “this is a book that isn’t written yet.” Perhaps, she said, teachers need to favor quality assignments over the quantity of assignments given.
She noted students may be having similar experiences as some college freshmen who get left behind because they are not well versed in time management.
“Our kids are living that now,” Baker said.
Instead of focusing on immediate objectives, Baker said some students may need to learn key life skills.
While some students seem overwhelmed, Hauman noted that others say the workload is no different compared to normal school years. He added that while teachers can be flexible, some must be told they are allowed to be flexible. For example, if teachers were told they must give three grades per week, they need permission to give two.
Despite the uncertain times, Hauman said “we’ve done a phenomenal job.”
“I’m getting calls from Fairfax and Prince William saying ‘hey, how did you do this?’” he said.
Hauman said there are still many lessons to be learned and “I guarantee you we’re gonna learn something else” over the remaining half of the first quarter.
The School Board directed staff to accumulate a plan regarding potential adjustments that could be made during the school year. In particular, the School Board was interested in learning if there is unused space that could accommodate more in-person learning.