Manual prepares for Non-Traditional Instruction


Piper Hansen

Mr. Farmer at the principal selection forum in 2018, fielding questions from students, staff and the PTSA.

Adrienne Sato

Mr. Farmer held a faculty meeting this morning to brief Manual teachers about district expectations for the upcoming Non-Traditional Instructional (NTI) days beginning on April 7. In the meeting, Mr. Farmer stressed the importance of communication and flexibility with students during this unusual time in education and went over guidelines about what teachers should and should not do for these days.


Farmer encouraged teachers to use Google Classroom and to set up office hours during which students could reach out digitally for extra help.

Students who do not have access to internet resources can use the Choice Boards that the district distributed on the last day of regular school.

Choice Boards have a variety of questions and activities that students can use to keep their brains active while they are not in school. 

Additionally, the district is working on a plan to distribute Chromebook computers to students without access. Students identified by the district will receive an email asking them to reserve a Chromebook by Tuesday, or families can call a number beginning Monday morning to request one as well.

“The district is working on a plan to distribute Chromebooks to kids who don’t have access to a computer at home, and that is hopefully going to be starting next week,” Mr. Morris said. 

Farmer also showed teachers how to navigate the new NTI Support Portal introduced by JCPS superintendent, Dr. Marty Polio earlier today. The portal contains a variety of student and teacher resources including a spreadsheet which, once set up, will link to all Manual teachers and their lesson plans. 

The district is still working on a plan for grading through NTI, although they have assured students that this situation should not significantly impact their current grades.

At Manual, there will not be specific required times for students to log into classes during any given day. 

“Students should not expect a Red Day/White Day feel. We have so many students in the district that have multiple siblings, multiple school responsibilities, so having required meeting times is really not fair,”  Mr. Morris (Math) said. “Students should expect a lot of asynchronous learning, so students should probably expect to either review some material on their own and either watch a meeting or attend a meeting if the timing works out.” 

“Meetings are certainly encouraged, but we’re not taking attendance. We’re not logging on at certain parts of the day,”  Mrs. Rich (Science) said.

One thing that administrators stressed during the meeting is that the teachers should work to support the students rather than penalizing them for any missing work during this unusual time. 

“Support is the big focus that the administration has told teachers; that we’re here to support kids,” Mrs. Rich said.

Flexibility is another thing that Farmer stressed in the meeting. 

“Really for the most part right now, it was just be flexible,” Mr. Morris said. “This is obviously unprecedented. We don’t have a rule book for how this is going to run.” 

“We’re being encouraged to be flexible in our timelines,” Mrs. Rich said. “The due dates are going to be flexible. Not if you’re going to do it, it’s more flexible on the when.” 

Manual teachers are busy preparing for their NTI lesson plans. Mrs. Rich has been creating videos for her class and publishing them regularly. 

“For the past week or so on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I post a video,” Mrs. Rich said. “I just go through the learning targets and what we’ve been doing.” 

Mr. Holman (Social Studies) has also been reviewing content with his students, however until the NTI days begin, the work is voluntary. 

“I am doing voluntary Zoom lectures and Q and A’s. I am also supplying my students with optional work to do related to the content of the course,” Mr. Holman said.  

Teachers are also somewhat anxious about the accountability issues of online schooling both for students and teachers. 

“One major concern is just accountability for everybody,” Mr. Morris said. “How do we make sure you guys [students] are actually getting information, you’re getting content, you’re growing as a student without punishing or being way too lax?” 

Despite these worries, however, the teachers are finding positives in the situation as well.  

“The district understands how many challenges there are for families, and they’re going to try and make sure that we overcome as many obstacles as we can,” Mr. Morris said. 

“The silver lining of all of this is that we can do education just for education’s sake,” Mrs. Rich said. “All the messy stuff has gone away. I don’t have to mark tardies, I don’t have to worry about any discipline problems. All the good stuff of school is right here, and to have that positive relationship with my kids and not have to worry so much about grades, I don’t see how we lose.”