Renay is dealing with work trying to talk to folks about the successes and concerns of Hybrid education. And the wait while decisions are being made can be irritating to down right frightening for some students.
Part of the reason: every district has a different set of words for vaguely similar things. This is not the world of Special Education where letters get thrown out in any sort of order that require a dictionary. And this bothers us greatly. Let’s take a look at a few of the key words being used in some districts.
There are two competing definitions of ‘small cohorts’. One of the definitions is used with hybrid learning, when only part of the enrolled class attends on certain specific days of the week, alternating with the other half of the class.
Another definition, used by districts who primarily are distance learning, refers to a key number of students coming to campus for specific testing in special education or to access services like internet and navigation to attend classes.
Until recently: Renay had not a lot interaction with a Small Cohort in either definition. And then Renay had an interaction with a general education student. While trying to support that student via distance learning, the student in a cohort was being heckled by less occupied cohort members. This made the student’s attempt at the classwork challenging to the student. The adult leading the cohort is also challenged because they cannot be within six feet of any student.
Things to think about Small Cohorts
While folks are so excited about small cohorts in either situation, there are a few things to consider.
- Is the school addressing the simple fact that these (up to twenty, depending on the situation) students are in a room together? There might not be space in the day to directly address their emotional needs because the students are back.
- What does redirection look like? Some students are not going to enjoy the only recourse most adults have—being verbally called out.
There are some challenges with Hybrid. If your district is not in Hybrid, this is the stage when just about every class available will only have half the students on campus at any one day. The other half of the class will attend via distance learning. This means every student still may need a computer and internet connection.
Challenges with Hybrid:
- Lab classes (art, science) cannot bring materials back and forth between school and home successful. Really, do you want that carefully crafted mug in art class in a bag on the back of a student’s bike or in the trunk of their parent’s vehicle making a trip on alternating days? No sharing of paints or brushes.
- Resources for bathrooms and sanitation in general are going to be very limited.
- Resources for the classroom are also in short supply. Gone are the roaming teachers in the classroom to check on the quieter students. Internet at some schools is challenging at best, moving to half the student body on computers with any level of connectivity may drop many students and their teachers.
- Again, where is the Social Emotional Connection students will need to make this leap? Some schools have it built in but for districts who are just going to make the switch: there might not be sufficient time to connect to students.
- This still isn’t ‘school’. You can’t run up and high-five a student, adults aren’t likely to do doorway greetings. It is better than ‘nothing’ but sometimes, it feels like it might not be enough.
Benefits of Hybrid
- Students can get that routine back in of being somewhere that requires structure.
- Students have a process of getting to a location they can count on. During that process, be it in the family car, a school bus, bike, or walking, the student can have that time to themselves focusing on only one thing as they make the transition.
- Access to friends. This is a challenge if friends are in different cohorts, but this is a step closer than not being able at all to see peers. Seeing peers helps make things easier. For students who moved campuses or cities: making friends really best happens in person.
We aren’t fans of outdoor classes. While many schools do have great places for students to learn together at a distance outside of the traditional four walls of a classroom, the modern school is probably not a great translation for outdoor learning even in a tent.
An outdoor class is a classroom set up outside, students experience class at a distance outside. This is better proven for the flow of air, and especially considering that someone might be talking for a significant part of the day.
Glare on computer screens for some students will be a significant challenge. Noises from the street or other adjacent areas will be inevitable. This also means a lot of electrical cords being run outside out of specific classrooms.
However, for the majority of the country current experiencing frigid temperatures and that California specifically is about to approach one major winter storm outdoor classes seem very unattractive. Moving into the Spring, certain conditions bring about mosquito bites, winds, and students who are very challenged by seasonal allergies even when given medical support.
Returning to campus is a highly challenging issue for some folks. Not just for their health and that of the people they live with, but for the offerings that are available. We recognize we will need to be back and that all students really need to be back at school not just for their well-being, but economics for every location will improve greatly when students are housed at school safely.
We recognize we will need to be back and that all students really need to be back at school not just for their well-being, but economics for every location will improve greatly when students are housed at school safely.ParaEducate
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.