We have been in virtual school for four weeks now. On paper it would seem like having younger kids or teaching elementary school would be harder than having/teaching older kids right now. But I’ve come to decide both age groups are difficult in entirely different ways.
An elementary student has to – most likely – learn one teacher’s system…where they put assignments, what live lecture tool they use, how to submit work that’s complete etc.
Wes has SEVEN teachers. That’s SEVEN different sets of methods and tools to figure out. And those poor teachers? You would think they might have it easier because their students are older and more tech-savvy but they have OVER 100 STUDENTS EACH. That’s 100 different types of technical problems, most of which the teacher can do absolutely nothing about. I’ve heard things like, “I can’t see the cursor on my screen,” which is a frustrating problem but not one that a teacher can help with from her house and her computer. Imagine that times 100.
Also, Schoology doesn’t look exactly the same from the teacher side as it does the student side so Wes figured out how to share his screen in a live class one day so he could show the teacher what the kids see when she posted a certain link. He had figured out how to make it work but when he tried to explain it to her she didn’t understand until she saw him reenact it through the screen share and she was relieved and said, “Oh. Okay. That’s not what it looks like on my end. Now I know how to describe it better. THANK YOU.”
I mean…without a tech savvy kid in your class who can explain something like that, how are these teachers supposed to understand why some kids are having problems when their tools look different on the student side than it does on the teacher side.
Not to mention that a lot of these tools have had to change these first few weeks because, in practice, some teachers find the ones they chose are not working how they want/need. This means re-doing videos/assignment/lesson plans.
Our school systems was supposed to be all virtual for 9 weeks. But because so many students signed up for the virtual academy they are able to divide those who didn’t into a staggered schedule and now Wes goes back 2-3 days/week starting next week. The teachers got about as much warning about this as we did. So now that they’ve settled into routines and we’ve learned their methods and tools…we’re all getting Snow Globed again. While my kids are thrilled to go back, I just can’t imagine the chaos this is putting into the lives of their teachers.
Wes likes me to stay nearby while he’s in live classes and I’m really glad he does because it keeps me aware of the constant struggles these poor teachers are facing. They are all teaching superbly (I’m learning so much!) and staying enthusiastic and energetic. BUT…I also see the anxiety in their eyes when kids are having technology problems during class and now they’re aware of yet another kid who is truly showing up and trying, but missing out due to circumstances beyond either of their control. I hear the frustration in their voices when they find out that something didn’t work on the student’s end the way they thought it would. I can hear the exhaustion when they have to teach an entirely different tool because the first one wasn’t effective. I hear the worry when they talk to the class about what to expect when school starts next week.
I feel like I’m watching 7 different variations of how this is manifesting and I worry so much about each of Wes’s teachers. They each have 100+ students and it’s hard enough to keep up with each kid in a traditional school environment when they’re in front of the group every day. Now they’re teaching virtual school where Wes has never had more than 6 or 7 kids at a time participating in live classes and NONE of them use cameras. So – at best – these teachers are learning the VOICES of 20% of their kids? And the rest are just voids behind a computer maybe turning in homework, but maybe not? And next week they start staggering where…they’re expected to figure out how to make every live class available for the cohort *not* in the building?
I just can’t imagine lesson planning right now, much less teaching. I’m experiencing major sympathetic anxiety from just watching it, I can’t imagine living through it. Every email I’ve had to send is filled with phrases like, “So sorry to bother you,” and, “Thank you so much for your help, I know this is an impossible time…”
The funny thing is…I’m not the involved parent. Don’t ask me ANY of my kid’s teachers names from ANY class of ANY year because I just don’t keep up with it. I rarely get involved in my kid’s education for many reasons and so their teachers names don’t stay with me and rarely do I even remember what they looked like as I usually only ever see them at conferences. I’m always super-embarrassed when someone realizes their kids go/went to the same school as mine and they’ll ask, “Who did they have for X,” and I’m like…”Um…I think it was an older white guy?”
But this year? I know all of Wes’s teachers names and faces and I hold them in my heart every day. I am also holding all of you in the education field right now in my heart with Wes’s teachers. It’s like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before, what you’re going through, and I am just blown away by the loads you are all carrying right now. And this doesn’t even touch on whatever is happening outside your teaching life. Are you supposed to be handling YOUR kid’s education too? Are you sharing a home office with your spouse? Do you have a barking dog like I do?
And what about the global anxiety surrounding racism and health and poverty and joblessness…they’re carrying all of that in their hearts like I am but they’re expected to put it all aside to teach?
I mean…so many things make this exponentially more difficult for these poor teachers and I just worry so much about all of them.
Here’s to holding space for educators in our hearts. They are truly the heroes of this moment.
This is a longer version of a Facebook post I did today. I felt like I had more to say so I came here to do it.