Jacob Bernetzke

Cassville High School
Cassville, Wisconsin
Jacob Bernetzke, Mathematics Teacher, Varsity Boys Basketball Coach

When I got the news my rural Wisconsin district was teaching face to face to start the 2020/21 school year, with students having the option to learn virtually if they choose, I had mixed feelings.  I’m sure most teachers did.  I was thrilled to be back in the classroom! Most people know that’s where we want to teach and that it’s best for students.  At the same time, safety is obviously a concern, and I have a child of my own in kindergarten to consider.  However, once the decision was made, I was excited to make the best of it.

My classroom is socially distanced, but I’m happy to say that teaching my lessons doesn’t feel much different than in the past. I teach high school math and this semester I teach AP Calculus, Algebra 2, and AP Statistics on a block schedule (new this year as a way to reduce student interactions.)  Every morning I make sure that my lessons are ready to go for the day.  I have to have them all up and ready by 8:00am because there is no time to make sure they are ready between classes anymore.  That time is spent disinfecting the room.

So what is different this year?  First, I record every single lesson I teach using a screen recorder.  I upload the lesson and post to our online learning platform at the school.  This is necessary now for students who are absent, maybe quarantined, and for students that opted to learn virtually.  Second, I have to have Google Meet ready to go for any class with a virtual student, so they can join virtually for part or all of a class.  Third, I had to convert all assignments, quizzes, and tests to a digital format that would still be effective for students.  I have created assessments through our learning platform, Schoology, created assignments on Google Docs and taught kids how to type mathematical answers, and use practice exercises from websites like Khan Academy when they are applicable.

What else has changed?  Yes, there is more.  When my son was sick with an apparent cold, my wife and I decided it best to be cautious and have him tested.  So for three days I stayed home until we got his results.  While there, I still recorded lessons and worked with the substitute teacher in the room.  I used my iPad at home, recorded the lessons, and she played them in the classroom for the students.  Since all homework was digital, I was able to grade from home (which I do nightly anyway because of the lack of time in the school day!)  This is the workflow I plan for if the school goes virtual. I have to accept that this is a likely scenario, and I want to keep providing quality education to my students.

None of this is easy to do, but honestly, to be an effective teacher even under normal circumstances is hard work.  Now it’s a little bit harder still.  It’s hard to describe the extra hours it has taken to feel prepared to teach in this new environment.  It’s taken more work outside of the school day than I could have ever anticipated.  Never forget why we do what we do though.  I see how grateful my students are to be in school again this year after doing all virtual last spring.  I teach for them, I love what I do, and I’m not going to let a pandemic change how I feel about it.

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