Learning Curves are for Assholes (covid edition)

I remember an old joke about two guys watching a western movie, and about halfway through the one fellow turns to the other and says “Hey, I bet you 5 bucks in a couple minutes this horse falls into a hole and gets hurt.” The other fellow looks at him and says “You’re on” and they shake hands to seal the deal.

Sure enough, in a couple minutes, the horse does in fact fall into a hole and get hurt. The loser of the bet looks at the other fellow and exclaims “How did you know that.”

Grinning, he replies, “I’ve seen this movie before.”

The loser then responds, “Me too, but I thought the horse would learn.”

***

I think of that joke often as I watch our political responses to the coronavirus. As we speak, omicron is screaming through the nation, shattering infection rates, and our response from many of our leaders has been “OK, how about we do what we did the last time, but with fewer precautions and less enforcement. SURELY THIS TIME IT WILL BE DIFFERENT.”

In NYC, it is a complete and total shitshow right now. Schools are little more than superspreader events:

I’d like to preface this by stating that remote learning was absolutely detrimental to the mental health of myself, my friends, and my peers at school. Despite this, the present conditions within schools necessitates a temporary return to remote learning; if not because of public health, then because of learning loss.

A story of my day:

– I arrived at school and promptly went to Study Hall. I knew that some of my teachers would be absent because they had announced it on Google Classroom earlier in the day. At our school there is a board in front of the auditorium with the list of teachers and seating sections for students within study hall: today there were 14 absent teachers 1st period. There are 11 seatable sections within the auditorium … THREE CLASSES sat on the stage. Study hall has become a super spreader event — I’ll get to this in a moment.

– Second period I had another absent teacher. More of the same from 1st period. It was around this time that 25% of kids, including myself, realized that there were no rules being enforced outside of attendance at the start of the period, and that cutting lass was ridiculously easy. We left — there was functionally no learning occurring within study hall, and health conditions were safer outside of the auditorium. It was well beyond max capacity.

– Third period I had a normal class period. Hooray! First thing the teacher did was pass out COVID tests because we had all been close contacts to a COVID-positive student in our class. 4 more teachers would pass out COVID tests throughout the day, which were to be taken at home. The school started running low on tests, and rules had to be refined to ration.

– “To be taken at home.” Ya … students don’t listen. 90% of the bathrooms were full of students swabbing their noses and taking their tests. I had one kid ask me — with his mask down, by the way — whether a “faint line was positive,” proceeding to show me his positive COVID test. I told him to go the nurse. One student tested positive IN THE AUDITORIUM, and a few students started screaming and ran away from him. There was now a lack of available seats given there was a COVID-positive student within the middle of the auditorium. They’re now planning on having teachers give up their free periods to act as substitute teachers because the auditorium is simply not safe enough.

– Classes that I did attend were quiet and empty. Students are staying home because of risk of COVID without testing positive (as they should) and some of my classes had 10+ students absent. Nearly every class has listed myself and others are close contacts.

– I should note that in study hall and with subs we literally learn nothing. I spent about 3 hours sitting around today doing nothing.

– I tested positive for COVID on December the 14th. At the time there were a total of 6 cases. By the end of break this number was up to 36. By January the 3rd (when we returned from break) the numbers were up to 100 (as listed on the school Google Sheet). Today there are 226. This is around 10% of my school. As of Monday, only 30 of whom were reported to the DOE … which just seems like negligence to me.

– 90% of the conversations spoken by students concern COVID. It has completely taken over any function of daily school life.

– One teacher flat out left his class 5 mins into the lesson and didn’t return because he was developing symptoms and didn’t believe it safe to spread to his class.

I’ve been adamantly opposed to remote learning for a while, and thought that it was overall an unmitigated disaster for the learning and mental health of students. At the present time, however, schools cannot teach and function well enough in person. We must go remote.

Yet the new mayor, Eric “WHAT IF RUDY GIULIANI, BUT BLACK” Adams, has decided to insist schools stay open.

It’s fucking maddening.

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