A New Hope

No, not Star Wars. I probably have a copyright infringement coming with that title. Sue me.

No. This is what I’m left with after a week of distance education. I’m not going to lie. I went into this week with a nasty outlook. Nothing but pessimistic forecast of a a dumpster fire of elephant shitstorm that would be in a fire tornado.

Don’t get me wrong, things went wrong. But where they went wrong, things also went well. Kids were happy to be back in the mix. They were happy to have an adult leading the conversation, even if it was, “Can you hear me? Say it again, your mic is off.”

The first day was all technical issues. Getting kids logged in. Getting kids to the right classes. The main platform Canvas melted down and didn’t want to play when it was our turn to log in and our kids couldn’t log in to find their teachers. Parents were calling the school.

We had all been instructed to send a welcome letter with our google meet code ahead of time. I normally ignore shit like that, but considering the circumstances, I obliged. I only heard from two parents at seven at night on a Saturday and they wanted to test the code. I told them it would work Monday.

I emailed kids directly who were missing from my class. Kids from different period were popping in to all periods throughout the day. Nobody knew what the schedule was. There was a schedule printed on their schedules but that was not the official schedule of the school which was on the website for the school. That was part dumpster fire. But smallish.

The rest of the week, I began to find my new norm. getting to know my kids like I do in the classroom. Getting to know your kids in a digital setting is different. Many don’t use their cameras so half my kids, I don’t know what their faces look like, just their icon. John maybe Spongebob and Kathy is a squirrel. It varies and I just don’t know my babies yet.

Some of them don’t like to talk and only use the chat feature. If they do use their mics they are very quiet and I have to tell them to go ahead and type in the chat because I can’t hear them.

It’s strange teaching to silence and a screen. You don’t know if you have a captivated audience or you are presenting to the goldfish and a dog, or an empty couch. They all have their icons on and have their mics muted. It’s strange to drone on about a subject, giving directions, repeating directions, then asking…”Do you understand? Verbally say yes or type yes in the chat.”

We are required to teach live for 120 minutes a week call synchronous teaching and the rest is asynchronous teaching. Basically, like when the kids come in and work on an assignment and the teacher is at the desk waiting to help.

We did all our asynchronous learning with the google meet. I just left it open and the kids worked. As they had questions, they could ask. I worked on other work as they asked, I could go back to the screen and answer their questions. I can spot check them and see how they are doing and check for understanding every ten minutes or so. It’s a way to roam the room. Most of the kids stayed in the room to get the extra help. A few left but came back at the end of class to check in.

At the end of the week, I’m developing favorites. I’m seeing who is going to need a little extra TLC. I can do this.

I took the above picture because I thought this was going to be hard to be a new type of teacher. It is going to be challenging. I have never been as tired as I have been doing this type of teaching. My brain never shuts down like it does when I leave my classroom at school. I feel like I’m on 24/7. This distance education is and education. But it’s doable. I’m learning and I will teach.

I learned this week that the kids want to be in school. They missed learning and are wanting to connect. It gives me hope. It made all the things that went wrong seem small. The big victory was the kids coming to school. The victory was seeing my colleagues excited about seeing their students. I was a Negative Nancy and they were Positive Pollys.

I have a new hope for the coming year. It’s going to be tough but well worth it.

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