Teachers react and adapt to asynchronous Wednesdays

For+the+rest+of+the+2020-21+school+year%2C+Wednesdays+will+be+asynchronous%2C+so+students+and+teachers+will+work+independently+without+mandatory+Zoom+classes.+

Graphic by Dana Richie

For the rest of the 2020-21 school year, Wednesdays will be asynchronous, so students and teachers will work independently without mandatory Zoom classes.

Dana Richie

After months of virtual learning, following the district wide policy, Grady students and teachers will engage in asynchronous learning on Wednesdays for the rest of the 2020-21 school year. On asynchronous days, students complete work independently without having to attend Zoom classes.

With the first few asynchronous Wednesdays under their belt, teachers have mixed feelings.

Some teachers, like World History teacher Sara Looman, initially viewed asynchronous Wednesdays as a possible disruption to instruction.

“With the 4 x 4, it sort of adds another little layer to learning in a new pacing format and then again learning how to adapt to yet another change,” Looman said. “I laid out my whole schedule for AP World [History] based on meeting every day, and then you have to kind of adjust that and go ‘what meaningful work can I have them do on that Wednesday?’ and still stay on schedule. It’s a brutal schedule when you have a year, much less just several months.”

Looman believes that the break in routine during the week may make it harder for students to stay focused.

“I like seeing the students every day and I just worry about the momentum,” Looman said. “When you stop in the middle of the week, you lose momentum.”

Algebra 1 teacher Gina Robinson had a similar first reaction to Looman. Since she teaches a Milestones course, Robinson was concerned about finishing all of the content before the end of the semester, when the test will take place. Robinson also teaches some remediation classes and is worried that asynchronous learning will not be beneficial for those students.

“I feel like [asynchronous Wednesdays] are really going to hurt struggling math students because a lot of them need a lot of encouragement and additional information to continue to work, and I feel like they were not productive at home,” Robinson said.

Despite her initial concerns, Robinson is now hopeful about the policy after the first asynchronous day in action.

“It was surprisingly wonderful,” Robinson said. “My students did the assigned work in a timely fashion, showed up for my office hours, not everyone, but there was some attendance, and it was surprisingly refreshing to not have to stare at Zoom for many hours. It was very productive for both me and the students, so now I’m a fan.”

Other teachers were eager to embrace asynchronous Wednesdays as an opportunity to switch up their instruction. English teacher Alex Wallace decided to implement a flipped classroom, designating Wednesdays for his students to look at some assigned reading, get a first glance at important vocabulary and come to class ready with questions about what they read.

“The benefits of a flipped classroom are that students can learn at their own pace, they’re working with their peers, they’re encouraged to come to class prepared and it also allows students to generate questions for class,” Wallace said.

Many teachers are worried about the learning loss that will occur as a result of the extended period of virtual learning. Though they believe asynchronous Wednesdays, if used effectively, can be a useful strategy to catch students up, they don’t think it should be the only solution.

“Like anything, I think it’s one tool we can use in our toolbelt, but also I think that we need to make sure the students are aware of our expectations, the parents are aware of our expectations as it relates to Wednesdays,” Wallace said. “If the students and parents are not aware that Wednesdays are even happening or how it’s happening, I don’t think we’re going to get the results that we really want.”

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