As an educator of 15 years, I know what works and what doesn't in the classroom. I boldly speak the truth and always will.
In the beginning...
It was Friday, March 16, 2020. The virus, Covid 19, was spreading. At 2:45 the faculty crammed into a tiny office space to hear the dreadful words from our principal: “This is the last time we will all be together for a long time.” Those sobering words hit us like a wave. Staff were silent. We were instructed to gather our belongings from our classrooms, head home and not return. Remote teaching was our new assignment. Conceptually it seemed doable. In practice it would prove tricky.
Driving home my head was spinning. Exactly what would online teaching and learning look like? I’ve never taught online before. This was new. What programs would prove effective? How can I ensure all students can get logged in? How will I track learning and, later, assessments? How much time is expected online? What will I do if students do not complete assignments?
The following week I tried to implement this shaky plan. I surmise I did about as well as any other educator thrust into these murky waters. I simply made a plan, chose online platforms, sent assignments, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best! Then came the emails…
“I can’t get online!” One reads. “That password won’t work!” Read another. “We got locked out!” More read similarly. Deep breath. We can fix this. Communication and a little tech support will be a lifeboat!
After a couple of days, I was able to see more clearly what programs families could easily access and use. However, assigning student work was only one of many demands throughout the day. In my home, we had 4 family members online. Two working parents, a teenager taking online college prep courses along with senior coursework and my preteen navigating the world of online learning through google classroom, videos, uploaded articles, math lessons along with P.E., Art and Music Class. Ugh!
Still in our pajamas, with globs of egg, jelly and breakfast crumbs scattered over the table, our day began. There were phone calls, emails, zoom meetings, google chats, slow internet speed, kids whining, dogs barking, computer glitches, cats walking on keyboards, questions to answer, assignments to read, lunches to make and spats resulting frustration! Sanity-saving break times occurred regularly throughout our day. Recess came about 8:30 a.m. I wanted wine by 9:00 a.m.!
Treading the waters of this “new normal,” we needed to breathe some fresh air! I think my kids had about 5 recess breaks and three family walks that first day! It was in one of our first walks that I realized something special was happening. Our day was less “structured” and more attuned to play breaks, family talks and a longer, but more relaxed day. One of my son’s last assignments was completed at 7:00 p.m. and I logged off at about 8:00 p.m.
After several weeks, we fell into our own family pattern. Quirky and unscheduled as it was, everyone’s “to do” lists were eventually checked off. The arguing seemed to subside, the questions quelled and a calm stillness settled about the house. Keyboards clicking and eyes fixed on screens, reminded me that this was our reality for now. All present, but not really. There was more screen time than I would like, but a necessity in this lockdown. It reminded me to randomly allow breaks to get outside and just be.
Social isolation is not ideal. It was somewhat stifling. Humans are social creatures. Even I, an introvert, jumped to go to a zoom meeting or google chat with friends - just to see other faces. My children missed their friends and missed going to class. Much of the time felt like holding our breath waiting for life to get back to “the way it was.” Things were different. Things were difficult at times.
One evening, we asked our kids what they liked about homeschooling. “There’s no rushing and yelling to get out the door in the morning!” my oldest remarked. “I can play outside more, “ my youngest added. I smiled. How true! With more time, we were able to spontaneously play, wrestle, dance, laugh and get into deeper conversations. I got a true glimpse of how my own child behaved when asked to buckle down and get writing assignments done. I could clearly see where he shined as well as areas in his learning that needed improvement.
During this unprecedented time of change, we got to know each other more. I suppose it takes a lockdown to make people really notice and appreciate one another. Throughout the lockdown, we somehow went from desperately treading water, to floating, swimming, to blissfully splashing and playing finding our own way in these “stormy” waters. Though I miss teaching in class, I found a way to embrace this new era of learning.
Our family is stronger, we have a new opportunity to spend quality learning and play time together. I can float on my back easily, drift with the waves of change and look up at the sky with gratitude that I can do this and my family is safe at home. I became a mom to raise, teach, nurture and protect my children in all types of weather and all kinds of storms. Parenting is my calling and it is my job to do the very best for my children and students. No wave of change or storm can destroy my family unit or my ability to adapt. I will keep teaching in whatever capacity is safest for all. Stay safe families. Godspeed.