As I watch, the little circles disappear, one by one. Some of the students say or write goodbye before they leave, but some simply vanish. The last one blinks out and I end the call. Then, defeated, I close my eyes, fill my lungs with air, and I let my head fall into my hands. I will not cry, I think fiercely. There is no point in crying. Breathe. Breathe again.
It’s the end of the second day of the most recent round of online school. I will not cry. I close the laptop, close the Chromebook. I stand up and close the folding screen that hides my laundry space when I’m teaching.
This first week, I’m teaching two two-and-a-half hour classes. We found out on Monday that we would be online starting Wednesday. Not enough time. Not enough time to change what would have been on the whiteboard into pre-prepared slides with little room for reacting to the students as they learn. Not enough time to figure out how to slow down to accommodate the pace of online learning and still finish the course in the 10 days that are left. Not enough time to make sure all the students have computers (they don’t) or wifi (they don’t). Not enough time.
But I got it done. Wait – *we* got it done. Four teachers worked together – remotely – for hours to create days worth of effective on-line learning for our grade 9 classes. Teachers shared slides and lessons on Twitter. Everyone chipped in. I didn’t sleep well Monday or Tuesday nights, my brain so steeped in planning that it couldn’t quite turn off.
And now it’s Thursday, only two days into our two weeks of online school. And I’d forgotten about the silence, and the stiffness of being stationary for so long. I’d forgotten about asking questions to a bunch of empty space. I’d forgotten how often I fumble with the various classroom tools, how foolish I feel. I’d forgotten how much I hate this.
To shake off today’s teaching, I take a walk and call a friend. I try to laugh about how much planning is required to give directions well. I remember an assignment in grad school: we had to give our peers directions for a game, and they had to follow our directions exactly. I thought I would nail it the first time. I did not. All these years later, I know how to plan directions – break the steps down; leave plenty of wait time; be precise; anticipate questions; speak slowly; add visuals – but somehow, today, it didn’t work.
I text my planning buddies. I say “no one participated.” (This is untrue). I say “they don’t see the value in learning unless they have already done the work.” (This is untrue.) I swear I am NOT going to teach tomorrow; I’m just going to give an assignment and make them work.
I eat dinner, hang out with my children. Then, when they head off to bed, I go back to planning. I write out the directions I will say. I start writing this post to calm myself down. I remember that this is just a slice of life; tomorrow’s slice will be different.