Remote Learning … Distance Learning … Virtual Learning … whatever the freak you want to call what we are doing, no matter how well prepared you are or how good you think you are at faking your way through this time … just know the STRUGGLE IS REAL. No number of virtual dance offs … signs in the yard … fun Zoom backgrounds is going to make the struggle less real.
I am in the remote teaching doldrums … I do not want your sympathy or empathy because none of that is going to “fix” anything. Like a cheer is somehow going to make me feel differently about what is happening … or make my kids feel better about not being in a classroom with their friends. Something like 25 years ago our neighbor used to work at Wal-Mart and they started the day off with a big Wal-Mart cheer (not sure if they still do that or not). While we were hanging in the back yard he would tell me how he got in trouble for not participating in the cheer or hiding in the back to avoid the cheer time and we laughed about it. He could understand the fundamental purpose of the cheer time, but as he would go on to state … “I’m fu**ing working at Wal-Mart … it is not a happy time for me.” The struggle was real for him … he was doing what he had to do and no amount of cheer spreading was going to make him feel good about what he had to do.
That is a bit how I feel about what is happening now. I miss the dynamic randomness of being in the class. I put together a daily video for the kids which comes across more like a pep talk overview than anything close to what I do in the classroom. Not really sure I would want to record that dynamic because it some may find it strange or maybe unprofessional, but they kids seem to like that version of Dill. Professionalism is not an adjective that people would use to describe me… and I am ok with that because the kids do not always need a professional teacher, they need someone who can understand them and speak to them. I am not saying I am that person … sometimes I am … sometimes I am not, but that opportunity is not there in this type of environment.
Something that cannot be replicated in this remote learning environment is being able to walk by a kid and strike up a conversation. Whether is it in the hall or in the classroom, being able to capture a. moment is huge and it is something that affects the student and the teacher. I do not have the opportunity to walk around the class and shop while the kids are working and chat with them about whatever it is we want to talk about. Yes, we can talk about the learning activity now, but what is missing are the opportunities to talk about the doodling they are doing or the music they are listening to. These missing dynamics are missing and for many it is what pushes the learning forward. It is what makes school memorable.
From a teacher perspective, we can talk about the isolation, the missed conversation, the loss of collaboration time, but for me it is the loss of of unstructured random time with my colleagues. Making coffee in the shared office space as we prepared for our day. Just chatting … or not even chatting, but knowing we are there made a difference. I miss the random … like when I look around to make sure no students are around and I call a teacher’s name to get their attention and I flip them off … and we laugh. Sending the virtual bird just does not have the same effect. I know … it is weird and some of you are probably shocked by this activity, but you just do not understand who we are. It is part of our quirky teacher bond that has somehow been removed from our life … and it makes me a little sad. … although I do like not having to get up at 5AM and wearing shorts and a t-shirt everyday.
yes … the struggle is real and I am not going to be fake about it. I am not going to pretend that what I am doing remotely even in the best of times can replace what I can do in the class. I do not even care how awesome you think you are or how long you have been teaching online … there are dynamics that happen in the classroom that are just pure magic that cannot be replicated online because they are not planned and they are not academic … they are authentic moments.