Teachers’ Thoughts on Asynchronous Wednesdays

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Read about the student perspective on asynchronous Wednesdays here.

Amongst the changes from in person to distance learning, one of the most notable is the district wide adoption of asynchronous Wednesdays. This schedule allows for both students and teachers to take a break from synchronous zoom classes in favor of independent work. 

Many teachers have expressed satisfaction with the new schedule. “There’s a pretty big lift teachers are doing now in terms of adjusting our curriculum from in person learning to virtual learning, so for me it has been convenient to have that time to work on my lessons,” Nichole Barlow, a Spanish teacher, said about asynchronous Wednesdays. “From a students perspective, I am grateful that my students get another day of practice, even if it is only asynchronous activities.”

Khoa Dao, a Math and AVID teacher, echoed the same opinion, and elaborated on a week when teachers did not have the designated time in the middle of the week to catch up, “Labor Day week we didn’t have asynchronous Wednesday, so I had to spend my entire Labor Day working. Ironically, I was supposed to be off, but instead I had to do more work because I knew I wouldn’t have time in the middle of the week to reset.”

In contrast, other teachers still feel as if they don’t have enough time to redesign curriculum and keep up with their current classes. According to JP Nelson, an AS English, ELA, and ELD teacher, “It’s like you’re juggling a chainsaw, a chicken and an egg. You can’t drop any of them and you can’t get them mixed up.”

Wednesday was created with the intention to give teachers time to catch up, however, the amount of time needed was underestimated. In the current state, teachers are forced to work late into the night, because they don’t have pre-existing lessons to fall back upon, and constantly need to adapt based on what worked. “I usually work until about 11 at night. In the past I could schedule out my time over the summer, but this year over the summer I didn’t know what zoom was going to look like or feel like, so it was harder to plan things in advance. I miss teaching in person,” Stephanie Cuff-Alavarado, an economics teacher said. 

On Wednesdays, teachers also have less time to complete their work because their day is filled up with staff meetings. “Our Wednesdays are also when we have check-in meetings, so staff meetings, department meetings, meetings with other teachers who also teach the same preps,” Dao said. 

An attendence check-in on the Canvas calendar.

The shift online cut out all in person time and communication, negating the structure teachers relied upon. Dao elaborated, “Normally, I’d be able to check-in with teachers really fast. I’d go to their room or they’d come to mine, or check in the copy room or the front office. Those quick 5 minute check-ins don’t exist anymore. They’re half hour meetings once a week.”

Nelson agreed, “Teachers are freaking out because they feel like they aren’t teaching anything, so they have to meet up on Wednesdays. Every single minute of the day I have four or five different things that require my undivided attention.”

A primary facet of attention on Wednesday is attendance. “It isn’t just looking at a class and a seating chart that takes 10 seconds,”Nelson said. Teachers usually check student activity and presence via Canvas, a platform that alphabetizes students by first name, and submit attendance to the district through Infinite Campus, a platform that alphabetizes by last name. “I have to stop mid-meeting in order to check attendance, and if I don’t get that done by a certain time the school sends robot calls, then I get a million emails from students, and then I have to take even more time to respond to all of those.” 

Though all teachers are also responsible for assigning work on Wednesdays to ensure student engagement, there is a wide range in type and quantity. Some teachers choose to assign work to fulfill the allotted 30 minute slot in the schedule, while others give students time to work previously assigned assignments. “I aim for 30 minutes of work because I know for someone that’s going to be an hour. And if I assign an hour of work then that’s suddenly an hour and half, two hours and students feel really stressed,” said Cuff-Alvarado. 

Dao voiced an opposite opinion, “I try as much as possible to not assign extra work in my class on Wednesdays, because one: I know they are already overloaded with all their other classes. And two: everybody else is giving them assignments on Wednesdays.”

“We’re building the plane as we’re flying it,” Nelson said. “We will figure out how to run a semester through distance learning by the time the semester is over. If we do distance learning next semester it will be 50 times better.”

Mae Richman is a sophomore and a first year journalist. She is new to Menlo Park, and hopes to learn more about her school and her community.

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