Planning in the Time of COVID - for Teachers

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A few days ago I started to use the Screen Time Downtime and Apps Limits in an effort to shut down my work day by 10 pm and also a little social media wind up.

My phone apps are locked from 10 pm to 8 am. It has given me time to read again while I have my breakfast and morning coffee. Prior to this time I was checking emails and social media for pleasure, work and business.  I am currently reading The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larson - A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz.  This morning after reading about Churchill's gritty determination "to call forth from our people that last ounce and inch of effort of which they are capable" got me thinking. History chronicles the extraordinary and the ordinary. 

Each of us ought to record what our family members and friends are enduring for the sake of health and economy. For months now, essential workers have marched on and keep society rolling. Employees have pivoted to online work and on-going Zoom meetings within their homes. The ordinary have done the extra-ordinary.  

Teachers have joined those ranks again after a restorative but stressful summer break from the four months of online distance learning. 

As anyone with school-aged children or family members who are in education knows, this school year Start-Up has been a wild ride.  Teachers are still learning how to hold onto the reigns. Although we all quickly learned how to use Google Classroom or Brightspace D2L in the Spring, we were met with several hurdles. First, the fear and in some cases the reality of Covid-19 itself was a challenge for students, their families and teachers themselves, second, both students and teachers were learning how to navigate the virtual classroom, and third, students’ marks earned by March 13th could not drop, only stay the same or raise up from continued efforts.


These hurdles combined to create the perfect conditions for dedicated learners who thrived under the decreased social stress and one-on-one teacher help. Unfortunately, either due to stress related to the pandemic or seeing a perfect opportunity to withdraw from school completely, many students did not participate at all, and took that mark they had going in. Week by week, student engagement dropped. Teachers had to keep reminding themselves to teach the ones who showed up. It was a huge challenge and if times had been different, I am sure many of us would have been happy to generate merit awards for students who worked through the in-school Shut Down and completed all parts of the course.

Now we are at it again, with similar circumstances and different constraints.  The ordinary are asked to be extraordinary. I can only speak to the experience of people within the Adaptive Model of Secondary level of the Dufferin Peel CDSB.  Secondary students in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) are taking a Quadmester (2 courses at a time) in two Cohorts A & B. The goal of this is to decrease the chance of spreading Covid-19 by cutting class sizes in half over two days. Some are still very high - in some cases 34 students - split in 2 cohorts of 17 students each. Each cohort comes to school at least twice a week for 2.5-3 hours for traditional classes with desks and students are separated, where possible, at 1 metre. The space around the teacher’s desk was measured to have a clearance of 2 metres. Some classes have students in closer proximity due to class size and room space.

Teachers have been provided with surgical masks, a face shield and a personal bottle of hand sanitizer. Each classroom has hand sanitizer to be applied upon entry, all students are to wear masks, stay in their seats unless permitted to move about (but with social distancing) and if they must use the restrooms, must sign out and in using a QR Code. They are to depart directly after their morning class upon a staggered dismissal. No lockers, no lunch and no gathering.  After almost a two weeks - its not as bleak as it sounds. My students are starting to talk and seem happy to be back in their somewhat familiar territory.

On a typical day, our school is running In-School classes in the morning for one cohort (i.e. Period 1 Cohort A), while their counterpart (i.e. Period 1 Cohort B) is at home On-line with Academic Support completing assigned tasks for double the length of a normal class time, now at 2.5 hours.  In the afternoon, all students in period 2 (both Cohorts A & B) are On-line with Academic Support for 75 minutes, followed by 75 minutes of Live Synchronous Learning.  In a typical week, students will be in school between 2-3 times, to include what I have affectionately called Weird Wednesdays where each cohort alternates coming in the morning in an illogical rotation. All in all, students will be coming into the building ten times per course to have face-to-face or MASK-to-MASK time with each of their teachers.

Under normal conditions, secondary teachers in a semester system teach 3 subjects out of 4, and have one Prep for preparation of lessons, assignments, quizzes, tests and assessment and evaluation.  In the Quadmester, some teachers have their Prep now and teach one course, while many more have two courses to teach with their Prep falling in the second Quadmester.  Teachers must plan for 4 different sessions each day. Throughout the week, teachers might be able to reuse two lessons when the opposite cohort attends their In-School Session while the former group has the At Home On-line Session.  The teachers with two courses are working so hard to meet all the expectations in this new world.  I don’t think I would be wrong to say they all feel like First Year Teachers. Under normal times, most teachers do not complete all their planning and marking during school hours, under our current situation teachers are working at full tilt to be ready on all fronts for one In-Person, two Online sessions and one LIVE Online session everyday.  

I am grateful to be teaching the same three courses as last semester.  I can add to and improve what I already created in the Spring throughout Quadmester 1 and 2.  I also have time to work through logistics and think about my course delivery and the students’ learning path. Teachers on Prep now have new roles as ASTers (Academic Support Teacher) for students who need help while they are At Home and On-line.  Attempts are being made to group teachers to their subject areas but for those of us who teach in specialty areas, there are no other staff members who know our course content.  We have been directed to direct students to their course teacher for help if we cannot help them.  During our prep time, we are also responsible for On-Calls (that means we cover half of a morning class if a teacher is away due to illness or as was the case this week, the funeral of a family member).  I am putting in solidly filled full days and I only have one course. I can’t imagine what it has been like for people with two courses in subjects they are well versed in, let alone teachers with new courses they have never taught before.  A huge shout out to those of you in those categories.


Teachers love consistency for planning and this model, although it looks the same daily, involves complex changes with different cohorts each day. I desperately wanted to use my Red Teacher Planner but needed something more complex to solve my planning woes. Would a Dollarama Agenda fix the need? 


The school board provided us with a One Week Cohort A and B Schedule with Text and Icons.  Once I saw how much sense it made to use ICONS, I decided to use that system to help my students, colleagues and myself navigate the Quadmester.  Last week, I created a schedule plan for each of my Period 2 Cohorts detailing where students are supposed to be every day throughout the Quadmester. One was designed for learners who like to read with written TEXT and one for Visual Learners using ICONS.  Next, I created a teacher plan for period 2 with ICONS for one week with specific areas for each aspect of our teaching day.

Yesterday I completed the Quadmester 1 – Weekly Teacher Planner for Period 2 - Cohort A & B and then shortly after created the Quadmester 1 – Weekly Teacher Planner for  Period 1 - Cohort A & B.

Here's a sneak peak for Period 1 - Sept 21-25 - it has enough space to record jot note plans and is arranged to show what you are doing simultaneously and consecutively and which cohort is in-person or online with the colour code and icon. 

If you are a Secondary teacher in the Adaptive model in Dufferin Peel, I hope you find the Teacher Planners useful. To get your free PDF copies of these Teacher Planners for Period 1 and Period 2 -  one full single landscape page per week from Sept. 21st - Nov. 12th - subscribe to my website email list.

I hope you stay for a while. And don't worry I don't send out many emails. 

Good luck to all the parents, students and teachers and their families as we embark on new territory and rise to meet the challenges that lie ahead.


Wash your Hands and Wear a Mask

Stay Safe my friends,


Jacquie Blondin

Visual Arts Teacher, Ceramic Artist & Visual Learner



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