This school year (2020-2021) has been unlike any other, with schools back and forth from full in-person to remote only, some combination of the two, or just closed until further notice. As the Reddit resource below notes, teacher frustration, anxiety and resignation is the norm, not the exception.
Check the Related Topics box at the end of this page for more help and ideas.
The Kennedy Center has refocused it's education offering to developing digital education resources to ensure that students continue to have access to high quality arts education during the pandemic.
Their remote learning resources include: Performances for Young Audiences, Classroom Lessons, Digital Learning Resources, Teaching Artists Present and Moonshot @ Home.
Well worth a look!
Randall Munroe at xkcd uses the Star Wars' Death Star to explain how mRNA vaccines work, like the ones currently available for COVID-19. While you may feel a little sick for a day or so after getting the vaccine, inside there's a whole crazy battle going on.
Worth the time for yourself, fellow teachers and older students.
The CDC has put out a FAQ for Administrators, Teachers and Parents to help everyone understand the new guidelines. This is a good place to start.
Here are the new COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC.
It's broken out into 2 sections: When and Under What Conditions to reopen and Implementing Mitigation Strategies. There are separate sections for with information for Teachers and Administrators, and includes printable posters and graphics providing guidance for teachers, school nurses and parents.
There are no easy answers. These are just guidelines, not mandatory requirements – CDC's best take on how to move forward given what we know now. But it gives everyone a place to start.
This pandemic is stressful for everyone. Fear and anxiety about this disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both adults and children.
The CDC has created this resource with specific ideas, suggestions, and signs-to-watch-for in adults, children and teenagers.
Make sure you take time to take care of yourself.
Given the wide variety of face coverings that people are wearing, how do we know which are effective? After explaining why masks are important, this post outlines two simple tests that can go a long was to identifying masks that work and don't work.
The vaping test gives a very graphic idea of how well a particular mask works – and why it's important to cover the nose as well as the mouth. However, it would be hard to encourage vaping in a school setting.
The candle flame test is also effective and drives home the point of why masks are a good idea. If you cannot blow out a candle with your mask on, it's going to be very hard to pass on the virus when wearing the mask.
The candle flame test can make a great classroom experiment, even if the classroom is virtual.
Want to help advance the understanding of COVID-19? An easy way to help is downloading the COVID Symptom Study app onto your smartphone.
It takes a few minutes to download the app and answer a series of medical demographic questions. Once set, it takes less than a minute a day to check in and let the app know how you are doing, good or not so good.
Your information is combined with millions of other responses to give local and regional authorities a heads-up on COVID-19 outbreaks, and provides in-depth data for understanding the virus, its symptoms and effects. The app was developed by King's College of London and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Reddit is, among other things, a discussion website. The r/Teachers "sub-Reddit" is a section dedicated to the practice of teaching and receiving support from fellow teachers.
Scrolling down the list of current topics can give you an idea of what your fellow teachers are going thru. Topic titles on July 16th, 2020 included:
- Today, I'm editing my will to make sure all my affairs are in order should something happen to me upon my return to school.
- The "Do it for the kids!" mentality needs to stop!
- I'm not scared of dying from covid. But I am terrified of spreading it.
- My school had graduation today and plenty of students were not wearing masks despite it being mandatory.
- Earn my paycheck or protect my family; an impossible choice teachers are facing right now.
- I don't mind going back if I believed parents wouldn't send their child to school sick!
- Am I overreacting?
- How can I go about asking for donations for the classroom, masks, sanitizers, disinfectant spray, etc.? Or monetary donations so I can get these supplies?
- My school just announced they will not be announcing if a student in my classroom tests positive for covid.
Parents, teachers and students across the country are gearing up for the new school year. But, as of mid-July, what schools and the school day would look like is still a mystery.
Some districts, like many in California, have announced plans to teach remotely only for the start of the school year. Other districts and states are planning on "school as usual" in a few weeks. But many (most?) teachers remain hesitant to return to in-person classes without adequate safety measures in place.
NPR asked for questions about reopening schools and then set about to answer many of them: Whats the transmission risk from kids to adults? Are any school districts planning on-site COVID testing? What happens when a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19? What objective criteria can be used to decide whether it's "safe enough" to open schools?
What face masks actually do against coronavirus
Over the past couple of months, the world has received more evidence that face masks really can play a crucial role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. It's a significant shift from earlier this year.
New studies coming out over the past few months increasingly favor both individual mask-wearing and policies requiring universal masking. This video looks how masks help, their limitations, and how they are only a part of the larger solution that includes hand washing and social distancing.
Vox has an accompanying article that goes in-depth into the latest information.
- YouTube URL
Zealous Zsnel posted a short essay on this past school year:
"This has been some school year, ... one that I'm sure you nor I will ever forget. ... most of us uprooted in the middle of March from our students and classrooms...never coming back ... teaching virtually these past few months, ... trying our best to keep that connection going. ... feeling a bit nostalgic and unsure about the foreseeable future ...
- What will next school year look like?
- Will it be safe to enter the classroom?
- Will virtually learning become a common platform for learning?
... One thing is for sure... it will be different."
Worth the few minutes to read in its entirety.
R0 – pronounced R-naught – refers to how many people will catch the disease from a single infected person. If R0 is below one, the epidemic eventually peters out. But R0 is an average, a long-term measure of a disease's potential.
The actual or "effective" version of R0 is known as Rt – the virus's actual transmission rate at a point in time, t. Rt shows how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is spreading in real time. Rt gives everyone an up-do-date snapshot of the current epidemic situation, shows how well measures are working, and provides real-time guidance going forward.
This article dives into the details of Rt vs. R0, and how Rt is being used.
Mike Rowe's Unsolicited Commencement Speech
Mike Rowe's recorded a commencement speech to all those graduating from a trade school, and to those high school graduates about to enter one.
In these uncertain times, Mike explores the option of pursuing a trade rather than college and makes a good case for it. Something to pass on to your H.S. students trying to decide what to do next.
You can learn more about Mike Rowe Works Foundation scholarships here.
- YouTube URL
While we are still a ways off, one in five teachers surveyed in an USA Today/Ipsos poll said they will likely not return to the classroom in the fall. Oder and at-risk teachers and administrators are seriously looking at this option. A majority of the teachers surveyed (83%) said they are struggling to do their job while schools are closed, 76% said remote learning is causing students to fall behind, and half were "very" worried about their students.
Parents are also concerned, with six in 10 parents saying they are hesitant about sending their children back to school and 30% saying they are "very likely" to keep their children home in the fall.
Addressing this issue is something administrators will have to take seriously.
This post by Amy Takabori explains why building a sense of community for your school during a school closure is important and gives 4 tips on how to do it.
A strong sense of community can mitigate loneliness that is likely to arise when students are consigned to quarantined home learning.
This free article from the Washington Post looks at disease modeling and why the models vary so widely. It takes you thru a disease modeling simulation showing how seemingly small changes in a model's assumptions or inputs can cause a large variation in the results.
Makes a good real-world example for math and statistics, showing both their value and limitations. Have students explore what the underlying math looks like. Can they describe the equations or the process?
This can also be a springboard for further student inquiry: What data would you need to make better models? How do you balance competing goals? Is it possible to optimize for both? What would "optimized" look like?
This post by Krista Kaput looks at issues specific to Minnesota, but is a reminder that the COVID-19 crisis has caused ripple effects across the education system, raising significant questions and challenges for the teacher licensure process. With school buildings closed, student teaching and assessments for new teachers were interrupted. And many current teachers are facing uncertainty around Professional Development (PD) requirements and whether they will be able to renew their licenses on time.
Check your state's Department of Education web site for current news on waivers and requirement modifications.
This post from NPR is another look at the current challenges facing schools as they try to reopen. Even in states where school reopening has been OK'ed, few schools have actually re-opened. A few districts have chosen to end the school year early, putting an end to their efforts with remote learning.
The American Federation of Teachers and the American Enterprise Institute have each put out detailed blueprints for reopening. These two plans have a lot in common as far as basic medical recommendations:
- The need for rapid and repeated coronavirus testing of students and staff,
- Contact tracing,
- Stepped-up hygiene and cleaning, and
- Reducing class sizes to allow for social distancing.
The article also talks about four tough problems that are on experts' minds:
- Running remote and in-person learning in parallel
- Serving the neediest and traumatized kids
- Privacy – how much data should be shared
- Transportation and maintaining 6' separation
Use the current outbreak as a learning opportunity. Check out these activities and videos from The Exploratorium.
Questions covered include what are viruses, how does soap inactivate coronaviruses, how big is a virus and how does it compare to other small things, can you believe it (how to evaluate claims), and how do virus tests work?
This article by Sarah Gonser highlights some issues that we will all face as states start to prepare contingency plans for a highly unpredictable Fall 2020 school year:
- Will schools even be able to open
- Extending online learning
- Staggered start times and continued social distancing
- Medical interventions and surveillance
- Prepare for learning loss
Back on Feb. 26, 2020, we started this page to help teachers and administrators get a handle on the coming COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, we looked at questions like if we might have to close some schools.
Seven (7) weeks later (mid-April), it turns out 90% of schools world wide had shut down.
While the focus right now is on getting thru the current school year, there's the looming question of what the 2020-2021 school year will look like.
Will schools be able to reopen this fall? If so, what will school look like?
Here's some interim guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health on what schools may need to do to reopen. Some of the items to consider:
- Stagger student arrival and dismissal times.
- Institute and emphasize the importance of daily health checks for all staff and students.
- Rearrange student desks and common seating spaces to maximize the space around each student (6 foot minimum).
- Arrange classrooms to allow teachers to practice social distancing.
- Bring in specialist teachers (e.g., music, art, physical education) to individual classrooms versus rotating all kids through a shared space.
- Avoid community supplies when possible.
- Cancel field trips, assemblies, and other large gatherings.
- Playgrounds and cafeterias present special challenges.
- Provide reminders about the importance of not sharing food or drinks.
This is all going to be challenging, to say the least.
The current stay-at-home environment is challenging for learning on a number of fronts. This article talks about how school districts in Colorado are trying to overcome the disparities when not everyone has reliable WiFi or access to a computer.
At the end of March, 2020, 185 countries had closed their schools, affecting 90 percent of the world's students. The speed of these closures and the rapid move to distance learning, according to the Brookings Institute, has allowed little time for planning or reflection on both the potential risks to safeguard against and the potential opportunities to leverage.
In this post they identify some of the risks and opportunities, including:
- Educators will be overwhelmed and unsupported to do their jobs well.
- School closures will widen the equity gaps.
- Poor experiences with ed-tech during the pandemic will make it harder to get buy-in later for good use of ed-tech.
- Teachers and schools will receive more respect, appreciation, and support for their important role in society.
- Teacher collaboration will grow and help improve learning.
- This crisis will help us come together across boundaries.
To say things are "up in the air" regarding fall college admissions is an understatement. This article from NPR outlines some of the current issues for H.S. seniors looking to go to college this fall.
Some of the issues include extended admissions calendars, SAT & AP testing issues, and last minute adjustments to financial aid packages.
Students and counselors are encouraged to monitor things closely as deadlines, requirements and resources will change going forward.
With schools turning to the Internet to facilitate education activities, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are stepping up to the plate, providing free Internet hotspots and continued service during financial hardships.
Check with your local ISPs to see what services they are providing during this outbreak. Your cell phone providers may also be a source of hotspot devices for disadvantaged students.
Billions of people around the world are stuck at home due to coronavirus lockdowns. How do you, your students and fellow staff members cope when your places of work, worship and relaxation are off-limits? Normal routines have been disrupted, and regular activities are no longer available.
Sean Fleming at the World Economic Forum talked with three astronauts and a submariner who shared advice on how to cope with isolation.
The tips include: keep to a routine, fill time constructively, stay connected, and avoid misleading information.
You've probably seen xkcd comics before – Randall Munroe has a very different outlook on life.
In this installment he looks at the current COVID-19 battle from the virus' point of view. We won't give things away, but now we know why all the pasta was all gone. :-)
Here's a great animated graphic showing how staying home can help break the paths of transmission. You're not only helping yourself, but everyone in your community.
This post is part of Reddit.com's lively community on the Coronavirus outbreak. This moderated group includes both news and personal perspectives.
How To See Germs Spread
Mark Rober, a former NASA engineer and current "YouTuber and friend of science", put together this video showing how easy it is to spread germs, including the COVID-19 virus, using a bunch of third graders.
Using Glo Germ powder (see the video and YouTube link for more details) , Mark shows how easy it is for one or two people to spread germs to an entire classroom. Even just shaking hands can pass the virus from one person to the next to the next to the next .... (you get the idea). He shows why sheltering at home and maintaining your distance are such a good ideas.
Mark also has some positive things to say about the COVID-19 pandemic. Worth watching and passing along.
- YouTube URL
With everything that's happening about the Coronavirus, it can be very hard to make a decision of what to do today. Should you wait for more information? Do something today? What?
In this article, Tomas Pueyo looks at the following questions and describes what's coming with charts, data and models with plenty of sources:
- How many cases of coronavirus will there be in your area?
- What will happen when these cases materialize?
- What should you do?
His assessment is sobering, but it gives clear guidance about where we're headed and how bad it's likely to be.
This is the data that's causing authorities to act "Now".
How long are we going to have to keep this up? How long will schools stay closed? It's an especially hard question for science to answer.
The best and most honest reply, according to epidemiologists and virologists, is simply: "It depends." It's not going to be over anytime soon – a matter of months rather than weeks. And these are the key factors that will determine just how many months:
- It depends on when U.S. cases finally reach their peak.
- Even after the peak, we may need drastic actions to keep the virus at bay.
- It depends on still unknown characteristics of the virus.
- Much also depends on how much we're willing to do, for how long.
This tutorial from The Washington Post uses animations and graphs to explain the math behind the current drive for social distancing to slow down community transmission. The simulation looks at four options, from no restrictions at all to a forced quarantine (think Hubei province in China) and with two different buy-ins of social distancing (75% and 87.5%).
The simulations are generated randomly each time you visit this page, which makes this a good exercise for students. They can see how the sames rules will produce different outcomes, not because of a flaw in the rules, but just because of the randomness of life.
This quick video from ABC News (posted March 10th) explains why officials are banning crowds, closing schools, and encouraging anything to avoid a lot of human contact. It's called "flatten the curve".
At this point, it appears that a majority of the population will contract the virus. By slowing down the rate of new cases, we can flatten the infection bell curve, preventing the heath care system from being overwhelmed. A certain percentage of all new infections are going to require intense medical care. By reducing the total number of cases at any one time, we better ensure that we'll have the capacity to care for serious cases.
Yes, flattening the curve means we will have to deal with this virus for a longer time. But it helps ensure that everyone who needs serious medical intervention will be able to get it.
The CDC has published interim guidance is intended to help administrators prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff at both the school/facility and district level. The guidance is split into 2 sections: Guidance for schools which do not have COVID-19 identified in their community and Guidance for schools with identified cases of COVID-19 in their community.
It is worth going thru the items in the second section and making sure your school's plan addresses the issues listed.
Having a school or district plan is no longer optional.
Check your state's Department of Education web site
Check with your state's Department of Education web site for information, guidelines and resources for dealing with Covid-19.
Many departments now have links on their home page to Covid-19 resources. If your state does not yet have a resource link, check the web sites for neighboring states. Washington state, California and Florida are exemplars.
Watch out for discrimination
"We have this tendency to confuse people who are sick with entire groups of people, and that's what makes it discriminatory. When you single out entire groups of people, that becomes prejudice." – Gilbert Gee, professor at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health
The CDC is telling parents, "You should think about what you would do for child care if schools or day cares closed." For low-income and housing insecure students, a prolonged school closing can be especially harmful.
While schools cannot do everything, even just raising the issue with other government agencies and community service organizations may identify options for students with nutrition assistance and emergency housing needs during a closure. Look at encouraging parents, if they are comfortable, to reach out to their neighbors during a closure. Small steps are better than no steps at all.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set up this page to provide information, recommendations, and up-to-the minute news on the coronavirus outbreak.
This resource includes current information on how it spreads, symptoms, a situation summary updated daily, and information for groups including schools, heath departments and businesses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has an information portal of their own with the latest information on the COVID-19 coronavirus, updated daily.
Of particular interest will be the Technical Guidance section.
Some people comparing this event to the 1918 Flu Pandemic. The CDC has a great resource documenting the 1918 pandemic and other pandemics over the years including ones in 2009, 1968, and 1957-8.
It helps to put things in perspective. Make sure to check out the Pandemic Basics link.
When a new disease emerges, health organizations turn to a seemingly simple number to gauge whether the outbreak will spread. It's called the basic reproduction number—R0, pronounced R-nought—and though useful for decision makers, it's a nightmare for public communication.
In brief, R0 is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person, in a population that's never seen the disease before. If R0 is 3, then on average every case will create three new cases. R0 is important because if it's greater than 1, the infection will probably keep spreading, and if it's less than 1, the outbreak will likely peter out.
But even though it seems incredibly straightforward, it's hard to calculate, and tricky to interpret what that means for the course of the desease.