• Jennifer Smith

Why I Love Hybrid Teaching

When my school announced the plan to move from a virtual to a hybrid teaching model last fall, I was apprehensive. One of my colleagues, however, was delighted. She said, “This will be great! We will have two days (Monday-Tuesday) with a slower pace at home to ease into the week, then three days (Wednesday-Friday) of seemingly normal life and getting to see everyone. Just enough time to be with people before I become exhausted from being around them again!”

So for the past several months, my school has been operating on this hybrid schedule. Two days of the week, the middle school utilizes virtual school, and the other three days are in-person. When the plan was instituted, I was nervous. Not just of the virus, but of the constant transitions we faced. Our hybrid model was designed for all students would return at the same time which meant we would have the same daily schedule each day of the week, and I would be teaching the same lessons to different groups in both virtual and in-person school. My lessons, therefore, ended up being a lot of virtual work even on in-person days. I was also nervous about the chaos students may face with so much transition--home then school, remembering supplies, finding the right locations, etc.

Over time, however, we all adjusted to the plan. And honestly, I love the hybrid model on a personal level. On hybrid days, we begin at 9:00am. I have the morning hours to organize, plan, and even read the news before my workday begins. I have no commute to work and no traffic to manage. And it seems that when I am virtual, I accomplish more during my planning periods than I do at school. Of course, that list includes changing the laundry and prepping dinner. I am a more relaxed and calm person; our hectic pace is no longer.

Even our school day is more relaxed in the hybrid model. On both schedules, we have four class periods each day. We modified our 7 period day to limit screen time for virtual school, and we maintain that model in-person. On virtual days, I am not rushing to lunch or recess duty, but instead sitting down and enjoying my 1 hour lunch break. It also has allowed for additional meeting time between colleagues and teams. Without assigned duties, we are all free during lunch and recess to connect if needed. Somehow, these meetings are less rushed; perhaps it’s because we have no need for that urgent bathroom break between classes anymore!

Virtual days end at 2:00 or 3:00 depending on various assemblies or advisory projects. And on the backend, I have no commute. I am home. While I am often exhausted from the constant Zooming, I am more relaxed and feel as though I can easily fit a workout into my day or complete grocery shopping or read a book if I want to.

When we are in-person, I am thrilled! I love the interaction with colleagues and students, and I feel refreshed and ready to take on the world after five days away. Students are more engaged on these days as they, too, appreciate the time we all have together. Just as my colleague suggested, you can ease into the week with virtual school then have a taste of excitement and connecting with people Wednesday through Friday. Having two lowkey days has given me more energy on my in-person days. I look forward to going to school to see everyone and connect, collaborate, and create.

In many ways, students feel the same. Although they desperately miss connecting with their classmates and playing together at recess on virtual days, students overwhelmingly love the slower pace of the day. They do not feel as rushed. Fitting homework assignments into their day is much easier and manageable when we are virtual. They have more choice when it comes to planning their work. They are spending less time commuting from place to place-school to sports to home, and thus, less time completing work or eating meals in the car.

How can we take these lessons into account as we return back to school in the fall? Because, let’s be honest, it’s clear that we will all be returning to in-person school five days a week. So what can we do to make our lives less hectic? Now that we see and feel the real benefits of living a slower paced life, what can we do to transform our lives for the better?

Photo Credit: Elements5 Digital on Unsplash

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