One week from now, I will be returning from my first full day as a grand juror in the DC Superior Court.
The back-story is interesting. I received a jury summons in late July for a 5+ week September/October term. Realizing that I had been summoned to a grand, and not a petite, jury, I had a minor panic attack. What would happen in my classroom during my extended absence? I wrote a letter requesting that I be excused to minimize the disruption. That was denied. My principal wrote a letter explaining the hardship my extended absence would impose. That was denied. I called up the clerk at the courthouse. No exceptions. I settled for the only thing possible, a 90-day deferral.
So now I am in my last week with my current students until January. I repeat: until January. That’s a long time for a lead teacher to be gone.
Furthermore, jury duty creates an odd situation: I will be forced to teach remotely. Though I will still be “in charge” by lesson planning and coming to school once a week to pick up work to grade, the 9am-5pm commitment precludes actually seeing my students on a daily basis. This is highly counterintuitive.
Upon first reading my summons, I equated the inevitable disappearance of face-to-face interaction with a halt in student learning. I resigned myself to the fact that my students, already so in need of learning opportunities, would fall further behind.
Tonight, however, I was inspired and convinced that this didn’t have to be case. I attended a Slate Hive event, on “The 21st Century Classroom” at the Newseum, that gave me a taste of what is possible with education in the 21st century. We started with an insightful panel discussion, moderated by Justin Cohen of Mass Insight’s School Turnaround Group, that included a DoE Deputy Assistant Secretary, a founder of an innovative STEM charter school and an ASU ed tech professor. They reflected on the failings of our current model of classroom design and played the role of futurists, too.
Then, we broke out into small groups with various slate editors and writers and “hived” (read: “collectively brainstormed”) on different ideas. My facilitator was William Saletan, who helped draw out a great discussion on how we could improve a classroom with $1,000 (O, what I would do with that in my classroom!).
The event, on a Monday night no less, got me thinking about many things. Most relevantly, however, the evening provided me insights about the power of technology in today’s classroom.
In essence, I’m convinced that there are ways that I can ensure that students continue moving forward as English learners even while I’m away poring over evidence and issuing indictments. I have the opportunity to blend “learning” with what is already a normal part of my students’ everyday lives: technology. What an opportunity!
I’ve already created a teacher Facebook profile. I’ll use this profile to provide students updates, and to have perhaps the closest thing to a real conversation that I can have while I am serving my term. Given how often I see students signing onto Facebook, I see this as a fun but legitimate way to communicate with my students while I’m away.
In essence, my term on the grand jury forces me to engage in a teaching experiment of sorts: in the 21st-century world, what can an educator accomplish when forced to sever face-to-face interactions for almost 2 months?
I’m sure there are already loads of fantastic methods and ideas out there. At this point, I almost wish I had taken an ed tech course, so that I might have a few more tools in my box to use for the next few weeks.
Do you, dear remote reader, have any great technology-based ideas that will help (a) keep students engaged, (b) hold them accountable and (c) students withstand 5+ weeks with a substitute teacher?
I have a few ideas buzzing in my own mind’s hive, but I could use some more from the worldwide hive. I have exactly 7 days to figure things out. Thank you much for your help.