Austin Interview Full Transcript

Caroline Gardner  

So if you could start by introducing yourself and telling me what school you teach at, and then, like how long you've been teaching there. 

 

Austin  

Okay. So, as you know, I'm Austin. I'm teaching at Billet Lick Middle School, which is in Billet County, Kentucky. It's super close to Louisville. I, this is my first year teaching. So it's been super strange for that. It's, I don't know, I've really liked teaching there, to a great school to be at for a first year. I'm with seventh grade language arts. So I have five periods of language arts, and one period of mentoring where I basically just like set goals with the kids and talk to them about things besides school, like just to get to know them as people and so they can see me as a person instead of a teacher, slash adult who doesn't get them. It's like really great for building relationships with them. Um, the school that I teach in, so my county is the third largest in Kentucky maybe the second largest I'm not, It's big. So like the range of the types of schools huge. So the one I teach in is super, it's like it's a title one school. So it's low income. And then like the other side is like, obviously higher income, wealthier. So that's kind of the place that I'm in. That's the type of kids that I get.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Awesome. Um, so are the students that you're in charge of mentoring? Are those also the students that you have in language arts, or is it a different group of students?

 

Austin  

Yeah, I have seventh graders for mentoring too. So I have 23 and then all but like two have them, I have for language arts.

 

Caroline Gardner  

All right. Cool. So how many Students do you have in total do you know?

 

Austin  

135

 

Caroline Gardner  

And this is kind of a super broad question. So feel free to like take your time with this, but how has your work been interrupted by Coronavirus and the closing of your school?

 

Austin  

Um, well, the good thing is, is that we're a one on one school with technology. So most of them I think we have like 15 kids who we have to send packets to, but most of them still get the their, like normal work, I guess. But we've gone from 50 minute class periods every day, to giving for each subject, about 10 to 15 minutes of work. So right now trying to teach a holocaust unit and make that work and make it so that they actually understand what we're talking about is super challenging. So we have more support from parents, because I feel like this is a time when we're all like working together to make sure that the kids are going on, right and all that, but they're also, no one's super concerned about education at this point, if that makes sense, like, it's still important, but we're trying to get food for like, especially my kids, because we'd like to have free meals for them. So my kids are more concerned and their parents are more concerned about food, and all that stuff. So like the lessons we've made super doable, like two or three hours a day is all that it should take. So getting lessons across has been challenging. I don't know if that answers your question, or if I just rambled.

 

Caroline Gardner  

yeah, no, it definitely does. Um, so you said your school is a one to one school. What does that mean? You said but something with technology or?

 

Austin  

Yeah, so so what you're asking

Caroline Gardner  

Yeah, So does every kid have access to a computer or what does that mean?

 

Austin  

When they're like, actually in the school building, they each have their own Chromebook.

Caroline Gardner  

Oh cool!

 

Austin  

 And like some extra ones, because you know, they're 13 years old, so they break them and throw their backpacks and draw on them and all that good stuff. So when we were getting ready to go to online school, we made sure that all the kids had their own Chromebook. If they didn't, then we sent them to the library. And they would get a day user or classroom user and take that home with them. And if they didn't, then we were just kind of like you're doing your work on paper and you'll have to drop it off in a bin at the school.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Awesome and you think most kids have been receptive to online learning or less so or?

 

Austin  

The crazy thing is it the kids who I had a harder time reaching in a classroom setting are the ones who are logging on first, and staying on for the longest and getting their work done, which I didn't expect at all. I think that having to do this and being accountable for their own selves is helping a lot of them. I mean, it's obviously going to have a pretty negative impact on their learning as a whole, but I think they're learning how to manage their work for themselves. A lot of these kids. There's something else too. I forgot what I was going to say. But yeah,

 

Caroline Gardner  

cool. And then as far as your mentoring, um, what kind of concerns have you heard from students about other things that are happening in their lives like outside of just online school?

 

Austin  

Right? Um, they haven't really come to me to talk about any of that. As I've reached out to them. They've told me a few things like There's been some, like, there's been some deaths and some kid's families and like accidents and stuff and they can't talk to me about that in school. So they're just casually mentioning that like, Hey, Mr. Snyder, I didn't get my work done Friday cuz grandma died because I was in a car accident. And a lot of these kids, when we were still in the building would say, Hey, can I talk to you for like five minutes during class or during mentoring about something and that's when they would talk about it and I could like, because, you know, be there for them, but now it's just over chatting, like through a chat room in our program. So that's, it's not my favorite, but it's kind of what we have to work with.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Yeah. How do you think that's changed the dynamic between you and your mentees?

 

Austin  

I definitely don't feel as close to them as I do. I mean, obviously, when you can be there in person for someone, you have that like, relationship with them and you can like, like I had handshakes with some and things like that. And a lot of those kids I've reached out to and haven't heard anything back from. So it definitely hurt the emotional relationship between teacher and student, but they're still doing their work. So there's some good things and bad things.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Yeah. Have there been any problems with like connectivity? Or? Like, is it hard for some students to get internet access at their homes? Or has it been pretty much like manageable for them, and for you?

 

Austin  

For the most part, they all have access to the internet. There's like 10 or 15 that don't. And I forget what internet provider it is, but there's some provider out there that's giving free internet access for students. And so we've like Given the parents that information, and it's kind of up to their discretion, whether they want to listen to us or not. And if they're a student who has a packet, then we just make sure we call them every day and ask and if they say they are, then we kind of just have to take it on their word and, and hope that they're actually getting their work done. But there are some students who just aren't doing anything. 

 

Caroline Gardner  

How many students would you say of yours, that fall into that kind of category?

 

Austin  

That doesn't fall into the category of not doing anything?

 

Caroline Gardner  

Mhm.

 

Austin  

Out of my mentor group. I have a good group of kids. None of my mentees have failed to do any work. like they've at least gotten 70% or so of it done every day. Out of the entire hundred and 35 kids that I have for language arts, there's, I don't know, six or seven, maybe they haven't done anything. And then there's others where they might go a couple of days. And as soon as we make parent contact they're, all of a sudden, doing every single last bit of their work, so

 

Caroline Gardner  

Wow, isn't that amazing.

 

Austin  

It's not as bad as I thought I'd be. I didn't think they were going to do anything. And like we just had a week long Spring Break last week, and I thought we were going to come back and they were going to forget that we were even in school, but the attendance wise is not that bad.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Oh, that's awesome. And as far as attendance would you say, I think you've said it before you'd say 70% of your students show up to like your online 10 minute kind of check ins?

 

Austin  

As a seventh grade as a whole. We've been around 90% attendance. 

 

Caroline Gardner  

That's awesome. 

 

Austin  

It is really, really good. 

 

Caroline Gardner  

Very cool. And then, um, so how could you kind of walk me through what one of your lessons would be Like just very briefly like in the 10 minutes like you, like, how do you think the going and what kinds of stuff are you doing? Do you kind of like assigning work? Or are you trying to teach stuff and giving them like, prompts to respond to like, What? How are you kind of doing that?

 

Austin  

Right, so a lot of teachers are posting like daily videos of mini lessons, like walking through something, but we're on a holocaust unit for language arts right now. So most of my lessons have looked like reading a document or an excerpt from something and then filling out a Google form. So I have a slideshow every week. And each day of the week has a slide it's like, April, but what's today? The 13th. So April 13, and NTI day 15 work, and they'll say like step one, read this document. Step two, answer the questions in this Google Form. That way, like all their work is in one place, so they don't have to search for it. And it's the same every day, every week. So they'll read the document, fill out the Google forum, because that like sorts all the answers for me, it'll grade stuff for me just to take that out of the equation. So it's one less thing to worry about on my end. And then for like, the kids that need extra support, I read the documents and post them on YouTube and give them the link so they don't have to read it themselves. They can just listen to it. And then most of them since they have technology they have access to scribe so they can type or like they can talk into their computer and it'll write for them. So the easy part is getting them the actual assignment. The hard part is figuring out ways without seeing them in person to provide extra supports.

 

Caroline Gardner  

That's really cool that you're doing all that. That's awesome. Is that what You would normally do in non pandemic times?

 

Austin  

Like a normal classroom?

 

Caroline Gardner  

Yeah. 

 

Austin  

Oh, in a normal setting, I would try to do like, I do a lot of group work. So that's been really hard because I usually rely really heavily on group work and reading exercises. So making sure each kid has a specific role at the table. So like, you might have a reader, you might have a writer, and then someone who likes watches for weird vocabulary words just so every kid has something they're doing that plays to their strengths and weaknesses. But now every kid is like doing everything on their own. It's the same material, it's just watered down a lot. 

 

Caroline Gardner  

Okay. Um, and my last question is like, how are you taking care of yourself during this? Like, is this overly stressful for you? Would you say this has been like, not as stressful as normal teaching? Like, how are you handling this?

 

Austin  

Um. It's more stressful just because if a kid does not show up, so say in any given day by noon, you have 20 or 30 7th graders that haven't logged on to their Chromebooks, haven't turned in any work. Then as teachers, we have to start contacting them and doing like, email phone, messaging the student through GoGuardian or something like everything, we can log that so that we can show that we've done everything to get ahold of them. Whereas in a normal school day, if they don't show up, they don't show up. And maybe after a few days, we call them make sure everything's okay but like it's every day ah I think that, The work to me is easier. Just because I don't have to think about how to change my lessons from period to period or anything like that. But I don't feel like I'm doing as much. Like, before we went to online schooling, I felt like I was just starting to, like, hit the flow of teaching, because it's my first year like, I was like, I think I finally understand how to do this. And then they're like, okay, we're gonna, we're done. We're going to online school and now I just kind of post an assignment and stare at my screen and wait for someone to ask me a question, wait for someone to turn stuff in so that I can grade it. And that's really it. I don't really feel like a teacher. I just feel like kind of someone who's saying do this. Good job. You tried. If that makes sense.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Yeah. No, that definitely makes sense. I'm sorry. That sounds awful, and really stressful for you. And then if you know I said the last question, but this is my real last question. What does a typical day look like for you as an online teacher now?

 

Austin  

So I normally wake up, we have a program called Go Guardian, where we can see the kid screens as they log on. So like, if I go and look at that right now I can see what all of my online students are working on, or what they're watching on Netflix. So I normally go, I'm in charge of, so every teacher is in charge of one group for attendance. So our mentor groups, I checked them, see who's on right in the morning mark, their attendance as present. And then I'll open up my work for the day and start grading that, marking it as complete. And then that's pretty much all Do from 8 till 11:15. And sometimes I create videos like, tutorial videos, post those, and then after lunch at like 12:15 /12:30 that's when I start calling and saying, Hey, your kid hasn't done their work for two days or your kid hasn't logged on today. Can you maybe wake them up and tell them to tell me hi or send me an email about what they've done. And I do that till like 2:15. There's some days where I don't have to do that. I'm lucky enough where they all get on, or they contact me somehow. And then they're, the kids are supposed to be done working at 2:15. So at 2:15 that's when I start going at the last minute like, like the super, super important phone calls. Like if I haven't reached a kid at all, then I'll keep trying until it's time to get off my computer at 3.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Wow, that sounds like a lot of moving pieces. And sounds really stressful. I'm sorry.

 

Austin  

That's a lot of waiting.

 

Caroline Gardner  

 Yeah. 

 

Austin  

Like, like, honestly, I don't have a whole lot to be doing, but I feel like there's something I should be doing. And it's it, but it's hard to figure out what that should be.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Yeah, that I'm sorry. That sounds awful. Um, and then are you guys like just bypassing grades? Or like, how does that work? Are you still grading your students? Or are the expectations lower?

 

Austin  

We're supposed to be doing one grade a week. 

 

Caroline Gardner  

Okay. 

 

Austin  

Per class, so that hasn't been a big deal. They have a daily assignment they're supposed to do so the way I've been doing it is just did you do all your assignments this week? Good. And our expectations which you're not supposed to do as a teacher, you're not supposed to lower your expectations but we have been. like So we're kind of saying, Did you at least try to get this right? Did you go through all of our materials, read the documents and all that. And if you tried, then good job because we're not there to help them in person, their parents are more worried about their jobs and whether they're going to be able to provide food for them, for any given day. So we've been very, very lenient with how we're grading things.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Would you say for the most part, the parents are pretty involved in their kids' education, or does it just depend on family?

 

Austin  

Yeah, I mean, when I talk to them, they seem like they're pretty involved. I definitely think there's some smoke and mirrors were there. Some are pretending but I mean, if I haven't gotten an angry parent yet, whereas if I were calling from school, that's usually not going to be a good thing that I'm calling for. I try to make some positive calls, but I got a lot more angry parents in school rather than now. Some parents are expressing that they're sick of hearing teachers call phones but that's about the only negative thing.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Awesome. And then is there anything else you think that I need to get like a full picture of your life? Your students or anything I've missed?

 

Austin  

I think that so all the things like grading and all the work and stuff to me and to my co workers that I've talked to, like, honestly, we couldn't care less about the work it's actually seeing the kids. Like when we're in school, we'll make jokes saying which Spring Break was longer, or it would just be so much easier to teach if we could just give it to them online and, and now we're kind of realizing that it's the actually seeing them in person that makes the teaching worth it. If it were like if this were like the norm for teaching, it wouldn't be worth it to me. So I'm pretty excited for when it goes back to normal.

 

Caroline Gardner  

Yeah, I'm excited for you. Dang. Okay, well, I'm gonna turn off my recorder. Thank you.

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