It was two days before the presentation, and I knew tomorrow I had work until the evening, Yvon had football practice, and Abby was embroiled in the logistics of a school-wide food drive. We decided to plan ahead and agreed to meet for Wednesday off hours.
No warning given, no announcements made, students forced to scrap their plans to meet with their teachers: Welcome to distance learning in Fairfax County.
At 9:16 p.m. on Tuesday night, substitute teacher Billie Jones notified students in English teacher Brenna Killeen’s first period that in under 13 hours, they would have to adhere to a new 4th period schedule where students have assigned office hours.
Office hours, crucially, are the only time students can work together and get teacher feedback during school. For our presentation office hours were supposed to be the way for us to pull off our presentation without having any class time to work on it.
When students have to balance working on projects outside of class with attending meetings for Medical Science Club, field hockey practice, jobs, preparing for standardized tests and their six or seven other classes, it makes 4th period a vital time during the day.
The reason given for the sudden switch was to allow in-person students to have social-emotional-learning (SEL) instruction time. Cancelling the office hours part of 4th period to provide SEL makes no sense considering there is plenty of time for SEL during the first part of 4th period, which already has assigned lessons and teachers for both in-person and virtual students.
Canceling the one time students can work together outside of the given class time is unhelpful. Giving them a half-day’s notice and putting the burden on teachers to spread the word at nine in the evening is impractical at best. Learn is a time when the administration expects students to be resourceful, work with teachers and plan ahead. It seems ironic that 4th period as we know it is gone for good, on short notice, relying on teachers alone to spread the word and with seemingly no planning ahead.