As I plan out three more weeks of instruction and online work, I am also reflecting on my relationship with remote learning. Do I like it? Do I hate it? It’s complicated.
I am fortunate to teach in a large suburban district slightly northwest of Syracuse, NY. The school leaders invested in one to one Chromebooks a few years ago. When school went online, Google Classroom was not something foreign to teachers and students at our high school. Although we have learned the benefit of many Google Extensions and other software, overall, we didn’t miss a beat. While other school districts were in limbo, we never stopped. We worked through April break. By Memorial Day weekend, we needed that nice, sunny break that mother nature provided.
We had the tools. We had the tech support, and the lovely librarians offered us many ideas and assistance. Special education teachers and teaching assistants joined our Google Classrooms to assist students personally. A Facebook group constituted a Professional Learning Community comprised of diverse colleagues in our building. We, and teachers across the nation, have tried to make remote learning work.
[bctt tweet=”I am enjoying the fact that I can sit in my air-conditioned house on a 90-degree day and grade a hundred assignments. My classroom has never had that blessed, cool breeze that central air brings” username=””]
I am enjoying the fact that I can sit in my air-conditioned house on a 90-degree day and grade a hundred assignments. My classroom has never had that blessed, cool breeze that central air brings. Spring is always demanding at our high school. From mid-May to the last full week in June, we navigate Advanced Placement assessments and New York State Regents exams, in between senior activities, proms, skip days, and humidity. I am so appreciative that I will enter summer vacation differently this year. I am a more pleasant person this spring. I am not utterly exhausted. Sure, I still need to plan, to instruct, to grade, to contact many parents, to save a few students, and to finish up the year, but the monkey on my back has decided to be socially distant.
[bctt tweet=”On the other hand, I am not sure that my students have learned anything over these past two and a half months.” username=””]
On the other hand, I am not sure that my students have learned anything over these past two and a half months. Of course, I have tried to gauge learning in many ways, but without a physical presence, eye contact, and body language, I don’t trust what I can only read. My video lessons seem flat. The online materials I have made are too simple. I do not think I challenged my honors class enough, while I have lost some of my students in the academic level classes. The best part of teaching–interacting with the students in person–is gone. For twenty-five years, my identity defined by a job that involves a classroom with walls, a solid door, and a whiteboard, has now disappeared. Poof! Remote teaching feels disconnected and scattered.
And yet, I kind of enjoy my days now. I have grown accustomed to putting laundry in the washer and making dinners without rushing. I feel like I comment more on student work, and I concentrate more on what matters–how my students are coping–than on just the content. My children are well-rested and not cranky. I have never put together as many puzzles, or had as many snuggles. Working from home has been positive and inadequate. I know that I am not doing my best teaching, but everything is crazy; I try to forgive myself.
[bctt tweet=”Teachers, students, and their families are in purgatory.” username=””]
I take long walks with my Belgian Malinois, who looks like Scooby-Doo. He will have a difficult transition if we return to our hectic “normal” life in the fall. Do we return? Is it time to reinvent? There are so many questions. Teachers, students, and their families are in purgatory. We are not sure if our relationship with homeschooling will have a future. Google Meets and Zoom Meetings have failed to cement our bonds. Honestly, those sessions are quite exhausting. Every virtual encounter leaves me melancholy–I yearn for the personal connection.
Last week, I allowed my daughter a socially distanced picnic at a local park. Five girls brought their lunches and sat under a shade tree appropriately six feet from one another. They were so happy to be in the same physical space with each other. They giggled and talked, while the moms watched from the sidelines. Fifteen-year-old kids need socialization. We all need people. In many ways, the online school has been like a long-distance relationship. How many of those kinds of stories end well? Most don’t.
So, has remote learning been a good fall-back option in a worldwide pandemic? Yes, but permanent online instruction is not tenable for the majority of Americans. Sure, it works for some, and I will miss parts of my pandemic life, but schools are in buildings. Relationships wither in isolation. Life is together.