Hey, hi, we’re living in a dystopian novel.
Unless you’re Brendan Fraser emerging from a bunker in Blast from the Past and the first thing you’ve done is come straight to my blog (in which case I love you Brendan and things are gonna get better for you booboo), you know we’re living in a very surreal world right now. Millions of Americans are staying home to stop the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19. This means that millions of kids are not going to school. Thousands of kids are embarking on a journey through distance learning for the first time. Thousands of teachers too.
If you are keeping up with Facebook or Instagram or whatever your internet outlet of choice is, you’ve no doubt been bombarded with memes and videos and posts about how parents are having a terrible time homeschooling their kids. In fact, here are some of my favorite:
— Lindsey C (@lilDnD) March 16, 2020
And then, of course, there’s the teacher perspective:
But listen. the main thing I’m seeing here is that everyone is so, so frustrated. More and more school districts are closing the doors on this year and switching to online education. Parents are overwhelmed, teachers are overwhelmed, and there is absolutely no love, anywhere, for Carole Baskin.
I see a lot of parents posting about how impossibly frustrating the teacher’s workload is for their kids. I hear you. Making kids sit at a computer all day or even work on school work for hours at a time just isn’t feasible. Especially if you have multiple children or are also working from home yourself. What I also see in our private teacher spaces is the unbelievable frustration coming from teachers being told this is something they have to do. I have seen very few teachers who actually want to overburden your kids with this much busywork. I promise they don’t like it either.
Unfortunately, as teachers, we sometimes have to teach in a way we don’t agree with because we need to keep our jobs. This is no new problem for us. We’ve been dealing with ludicrous expectations and requests handed down from our districts for many moons. It’s just never been so blatantly clear to everyone else in the world.
In a time when the whole country is shutting down, teachers have been busting their butts to make a workable plan that fits within district guidelines, fits state requirements, and makes sense logistically. If you had asked me three months ago if every teacher in America could jump online with their teaching, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. I worked as a co-site tech lead for two years and y’all… some of these teachers would literally call me into their classrooms to restart their computers for them. No way those folks are going to facilitate online education.
But they are.
We got thrust by necessity into the pool of technology with no floaties and everyone is yelling at us “SWIM NOW. SWIM SO SO WELL. SWIM LIKE MICHAEL PHELPS AND ALSO TEACH YOUR STUDENTS HOW TO SWIM WITH YOU. START YESTERDAY. DON’T COMPLAIN BECAUSE AT LEAST YOU’RE STILL GETTING A PAYCHECK. ALSO, THE POOL IS ON FIRE AND MENCHIE’S IS CLOSED”
So so many teachers are thriving right now that probably never thought they could.
Technology is hard and even those of us who know our way around a computer are navigating brand new issues. One of the online platforms I use regularly in my class is throttling connections because their website can’t handle all the simultaneous new traffic. School everywhere moved to the internet, and everything is worse now.
So parents, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, we get it. Seriously. Many of us have our own kids we are trying to entertain/help with schoolwork while we are also video chatting with our students and keeping open office hours. It’s crazy. The craziest part to me is that while I am fortunate that my admin team and department chair are very flexible and understanding, many in other schools are just… not.
One teacher posted in a private group that they are expected to give an hourly account of what they are doing and should be working from 8 am to 3 pm or else they will be docked pay. Another teacher posted the schedule handed down to her from her district and it has kindergarteners sitting at their computer for no less than five hours a day. And yet some schools are handing out worksheets at meal pickup and calling it done. How can we call this an equitable educational experience? Schools in New York aren’t even getting their spring break this year. Some schools are giving grades and continuing with new learning, while some schools, like mine, are saying only review and no grades. We cannot possibly expect that kids everywhere will be on a level playing field at the end of this year. Everybody loses.
The bottom line here is that we’re all scrambling.
My husband loves the phrase “building the airplane while it’s flying” and frankly I can’t think of anything more applicable.
That being said, there are a lot of blog posts floating around from teachers saying things like “Don’t call what you’re doing homeschooling, I’m still doing all the work” or “I’m neglecting my own children for yours BE GRATEFUL”. Listen, call it whatever you want; homeschooling, distance learning, remote education… it all sucks. for everyone involved. We all want to go back to life and our normal routines. And yes, teaching while having kids at home is hard. Nobody is denying that. But so is working from home with kids. So is being laid off with kids. So is any of this without kids. We’re all suffering.
John Green in his podcast Dear Hank and John talks about the concept of “collective loss”. The subject is the sadness a college senior feels for not walking at graduation. The concern is that there are others who have lost so much more, but Green says it’s still okay to grieve. Even if you haven’t lost anything big to your life, this is a relatively unique time in human history in which every person on earth has lost something. Be it a large or small loss, be it the loss of a family member, the loss of a sense of normalcy, or loss of the ability to go to prom, it’s still a loss.
It isn’t a competition. Everything is hard for everyone right now. Everyone needs a break. Nobody is getting one. It shouldn’t be parents vs. teachers. We’re all just trying to do our best so that kids come out of this as unscathed as possible.
That is all.