For almost a month, Green Hope teachers and staff have been back to attending school in-person! As of October 19, school-based employees in Wake County, such as those in Green Hope High, were mandated to return to on-campus facilities. While this may have come as a shock to some, others were expecting the decision. Of the 30 teachers we surveyed, 56.7% of them heard of the new policy for the first time through an email sent while 20% heard prior to the email such as from watching a board meeting or from Twitter and on WRAL. Additionally, 56.7% of staff (perhaps the same percentage that were informed by email), when asked if they had a say in the requirement, answered “No, I had no clue”, while 3.3% put “Yes, of course!” Other answers included, “Yo, adulthood does not work this way”, “I filled out a survey. Don’t know if my personal input was considered”, and “I knew about it but teachers were not given a voice in this mandate – it was a district office decision.”
The consensus for the in-school attendance decision was to ensure the safe return of students and to practice new health-protocol in place. Unless teachers were able to obtain a pre-accommodation form (ex: for conditions such as asthma), the district waived the ability for at-home instruction. While this form seemed to be limited because of its requirements, some were able to gain accommodation approval by referencing family conditions. In the survey, we asked staff to share anonymous opinions on this new change. Check out their responses:
Have you been teaching on campus prior to this requirement?
With a percentage of 56.7%, over ½ of the teachers surveyed taught at home while it was split 16.7% of teaching 50/50 and at school most of the days.
Honest Opinions. How do YOU feel about this change?
Some are optimistic!
“Working from home is more like living at work. I’d rather be in the building.”
“I am fine with it, as I feel like I have fewer distractions and have access to more resources at school. I am not pleased that we have to come into the building on Falcon Flex Days (asynchronous days where we cannot give out any new material). I would be able to get an equal amount of work done (grading, lesson planning, emails) while at home.”
“I like going into the school building to teach remotely (even though my classroom is cold) and have been doing so since the first day of school. I agree with the requirement of teachers reporting to the building to work–plus, we’re going to have to anyway once the second semester starts. However, I worry that some may not wear masks properly or practice social distancing correctly like we’re supposed to–overall, I remain cautiously optimistic!”
“I think it is necessary for us to transition before we ask our students to do so.”
Others are ambivalent/neutral towards the requirement:
“I understand the need for perceived equity amongst teachers in all grade levels, but I don’t understand why we are creating an environment here where we are exposing ourselves to people unnecessarily.”
“I see both sides of it. We have no clue what will happen in November and if something will change then. However, I think giving less than a week’s notice to some people is not enough time to plan for childcare, dog care, and get everything needed to report to school.”
“I understand it but don’t agree with it.”
“It doesn’t bother me either way. I get more done at school, so I personally prefer to come in, but I have 2 kids at home. If I didn’t, I would most likely get more done at home!”
A majority have also voiced concerns:
“Too early to be back – especially while on the cusp of flu season.”
“I am not happy about this change and it doesn’t matter where instruction is provided as long as it’s being provided.”
“I do not like the change. I will NOT be going back in for as long as I can help it, especially if the students aren’t in the building. What’s the point of us being there???”
“I don’t think it was a good idea. It does not benefit students or teachers and was a case of bowing down to political pressure from a small but vocal group.”
“I’m mostly worried about my colleagues in younger grades who will be back in person with students and teaching students in-person and virtually at the same time. I am concerned that we are stretched for time as it is so now having to spend time commuting to do the same thing I could at home leaves less time than I had already.”
“With students home till January, it should be the teachers’ decisions based on comfort and availability of materials needed.”
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to ask teachers to compromise their safety to come to an empty building when the job can be done from the safety of your own home.”
“I don’t see any reason to require teachers to be at school when the students are not there. I have to drive 35 minutes each way, so it costs me time and money to drive when I could do the same thing from my home.”
“It’s unnecessary since our students are not on campus. On days I taught at home, there were no differences from when I taught at school. Actually, I think the students preferred it because then they got to see my pets which actually helped with making connections and totally counts as stress-relief.”
“I don’t think it’s smart. My wifi is better at home. My technology is better at home. If I can do my job better at home then why waste the resources here at the school and put in one extra risk of catching the virus. It’s unlikely I’ll get it here but it’s even less likely I’ll get it at my home.”
If you were to choose, would you want to be at school right now given the current situation?
YES: Please elaborate on your last answer. Why!
“GHHS is the place to be.”
“I feel more able to focus when I’m in the classroom. Even without students, it still “feels” closer to normal than working from home.”
“I feel like I have more resources to be able to teach from school. I would like it to remain optional, however. No students will be coming onto campus this semester, so I do not feel it is appropriate to require that all teachers do – and this is an opinion from someone who was choosing to come in anyways.”
“I honestly get more done as a teacher at school than at home. I also can get questions answered sooner if I see someone I can ask in the building. However, on days that I work extremely late or have project workdays in class, it is nice to be home and save on gas, not pay for child care, dog care, etc.”
“Personally, it helps me to teach from school because it’s a different environment. I am usually able to stay better focused & be productive.”
“I believe in finding normalcy again under the right precautions. I also feel that there are fewer distractions and easier communication with all staff back on campus.”
No: Please elaborate on your last answer. Why!
“I really don’t want to bring something to the building and get my colleagues sick. I also don’t want to bring anything home and get my family sick.”
“COVID numbers are on the rise. I can minimize my risk, but I can’t account for colleagues’ behaviors.”
“I chose “no”, but I really just want the flexibility to make the choice that I am comfortable with for myself and my family.”
“In addition to resources, you need 99% compliance 99% of the time to ensure safety and that’s a high bar.”
“The job can be done the same, if not better, from home. I live 40 minutes from the school and take toll roads to get here. I get to pay for all of that to sit in an empty, cold room.”
“As safe as the building is with cleanings, it’s not as safe as your own home. The more people who are in a space, even with masks, the higher the risks.”
“I think forcing us out into the building and driving etc. is making it easier for us to get sick rather than staying close to home where we know who we are interacting with.”
Do you feel that Wake County/Green Hope has, in general, effectively taken into consideration the opinions of Teachers?
“It is an election season…”
“No. I think they are only taking into account parents’ opinions.”
“I think Green Hope administration has done all they can, but they are bound by Wake County’s decisions.”
“No, we all agree in-person instruction is ideal but we’re not in ideal times so preventing community spread should be the focus to help us return to better conditions that allow for a return to in-person instruction.”
“I feel like Green Hope is doing what they were told by the central office. I feel like the county tried to make a good decision but politics were a factor for the school board.”
“In general? No. But it has been nice to see that some teachers, even without CDC high-risk status, were able to be granted the accommodation to continue working at home if they asked for it.”
“Green Hope – yes, but they have to follow county policy”
“WCPSS sets the guidelines, not the schools. I think that WCPSS cares about their staff, but they are under a lot of pressure to open the schools again.”
“Yes. I appreciate our admin team and am proud to work in Wake County.”
“I think Green Hope has definitely taken the opinions of teachers into consideration and that wake county has only somewhat taken us into consideration.”
How has COVID-19 impacted your teaching experience? Whether negative or positive, let us know what’s on your mind! (ex: it’s made it easier for you to tackle parenting and teaching as you have had more time at home).
“Is what it is”
“COVID has presented unique challenges to teaching. Ensuring student collaboration is still intact while online has not been easy. Also trying to facilitate an environment online where students feel connected and safe to be open with their teacher is also challenging. There have been little “wins” during this transition, but the challenges are very real.”
“It’s been a mixed bag. Having extra time with family is wonderful, but also challenging during class times.”
“More time at home has not translated into more “free time” at home. I probably work more hours at home than I did in school. It takes time to recreate lessons for a digital world and grading takes at least 3 times longer. I can’t just take a pile of papers home and read through them anymore. Now I have to download responses, provide feedback, upload and send out. While the prep time has increased considerably, the worst part about staying home has been the lack of interaction with my kids. Teachers use facial expressions and conversation to communicate and that has all gone away. Nothing is more depressing than staring at 28 icons with no sound :(“
“We have had to cut a ton out of our curriculum to make it fit into the smaller time constraints (60 minute class versus a 90 minute class) and less teaching days (now that we have 1 asynchronous days per week). Due to this, I feel like my class is only teaching the material that will be on the state final exam. Any hands-on or fun enrichment assignments have been cut from this semester. I feel like my class would be a lot more fun and the understanding/collaboration would be improved if not online.”
“Negative- teachers are getting attacked in the media even though we have no power to change or do anything”
“It has been challenging and I feel overwhelmed.”
“Teachers are not supposed to apply late points if students aren’t turning in assignments, and we have to mark students present, even if it is clear that they just signed onto our Google Meet, but are not actually there. I feel there is limited accountability placed upon students, and we are constantly being asked to “lighten up the load” or “give grace” by not penalizing work for being late or incomplete. This is not how the real world works – there are deadlines and consequences, and I feel like we are ultimately setting students up for failure.”
“I’m impressed with how many students have risen to the occasion and are developing independence and initiative to power through this challenging time. Independence and initiative are essential skills for the workforce and college.”
“I have connected with students, met more parents, and learned how to communicate more effectively during this time.”
“Positive in that we have innovated to serve our students.”
“I like that I’m able to reach students in a way that it looks like our world is moving to.”
“This is my normal…”
On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the worst year you’ve had and 10 being the best), how do you feel about the effectiveness of your teaching?
If you answered below 5, please elaborate. Is there anything that Administration could help with?
“This situation is out of our hands.”
“I feel that I am providing what my kids need in terms of content, feedback and one on one help. I do not know how many are truly taking advantage of all of it or if they are hiding behind the “remote learning doesn’t work for me shield””
“Green Hope administration has done as much as they can do under the circumstances. I commend them for their support of teachers”
“I don’t think this is an Administration issue/problem. This is a student problem. There is a lack of motivation and drive to get work completed. It is seen as “optional” to students in my opinion.”
“No – it’s currently the county requirements (or lack thereof) that are the issue.”
Finally, the response to this last question made our hearts inflate, these answers were so sweet. To end our survey, we asked teachers to share something positive. Here’s some responses:
“Coach Ross has the best facemasks. Super stylish.”
“As a first year teacher, all of my peers have been outstanding, very helpful!”
“Erin Peters is an avid skydiver and spear fisher!”
“My department is coming together to support one another immensely during this time!”
“I have several colleagues in and out of my department who I keep in contact with who have provided positive vibes during all this craziness.”
“Mrs. Wilhelmi has been my backbone this semester. She is very helpful in navigating this “new normal.””
“Mr. Hutchison shared Parlay as an online discussion resource and it’s been a great way to try to recreate those interactions in a virtual setting.”
“the CTE department has stayed in constant communication and we all help each other out with questions on how to use canvas or google classroom. We also help throughout ideas on how to grade, email parents, fun activities for students, etc.”
“My relationships with my whole department have deepened during this time and we have maintained a group chat to help lighten the mood when times get tough!”
“The entire science department is pretty awesome!”
“Mrs. Barnett is doing a lot of extra work to try to make the English Dept. feel more comfortable and put other teachers at ease.”
“My partner in Math Plus Honors, Mrs. Conde, and I have worked well together even though this is our first time in the same PLT.”
“We have awesome teachers that listen and work together to get things done!”
“My teachers in my department are working very hard to accommodate each student and family as best as they can!”
“I feel very positive about how many teachers have been innovative in coming up with ways to reach and help their students.”
“Mr. Katsuleris has been amazing helping other teachers in the CTE Department”
“Ms. Barnett is an awesome teacher and an excellent department chair!”
“Mr. Plants has been an awesome voice for his journalism/media students! Great job!”
“My department looks out for each other, so I can’t say it’s just one teacher, because we have many good ones.”
“We are all fortunate. We should all focus on the good every day… and that has always been the case.”
At last, this has been a hectic time, and we appreciate all that teachers, Green Hope employers, and Wake County staff have been doing to be so proactive and continuously engage their students (while it may be harder than normal). Of the majority that are back to teaching in-person, many seem to be keeping optimistic and adjusting to the mandate. It is also a bonus from the student’s perspective when we receive free-blocks, such as no fourth period seen today, due to inclement weather even when online 🙂
Amidst it all, we hope that everyone stays safe and healthy! Thank you for your responses!