My classroom is now the kitchen table that I share with my eleven-year-old daughter. She is efficient in her work, completing it all before lunch and enjoying the remainder of her day. I, on the other hand, never stop. My days consist of running in place. The emails, the Facebook posts, the Remind texts, and the Google Classroom alerts keep me tethered, but I remain remote.
Of course, my suspension is not disciplinary, yet I feel punished. My teaching days are long and seemingly futile. Without body language and physical proximity, my assessment skills are lacking. With each day of remote teaching, I grow less connected to the humans on my roster. I call home, and I host Google Hangouts, but it’s like my students are swimming away from me. I keep throwing out life preservers only to miss them–the students feel like moving targets.
I call one father who tells me he and his wife are allowing their child to visit friends. I say nothing, but I want to scream. Doesn’t he know about flattening the damn curve? Have they not heard the slogans, “Stay Home,” and “Stay Apart Now, So We Can Come Together Later?”
I am sure they have, but raising a teenager, especially an obstinate one, is exhausting. I bite my tongue and inform the man what his daughter can do to raise her third marking period grade. The virus, of course, did not care that we had not finished a marking period. Now, we find ourselves trying to save third-quarter averages while teaching the last marking period of the year. We also had eight instructional days that “cannot count.” It is madness.
I need three computer screens to keep up with all of the platforms. I keep many tabs open, a metaphor for my juggling brain. I toggle between School Tools, Quizlet, Kahoot, Google Classroom, Flocabulary, and AP Classroom. My poor AP European History students! They learned last week that their typical three-hour-long, multi-dimensional test will now be an on-line forty-five-minute assessment. We await word from the College Board (by April 3, 2020) as to the format and the dates. In the meantime, I try to construct meaningful review lessons and guess at the appropriate assessments of their comprehension.
My AP review is so foreign this year. Instead of watching as my students move laminated terms, people, and events on my classroom’s big whiteboards, I must rely upon Google Forms to check-in and then remediate. I know it is a college-level class of seniors in high school, but I still feel a responsibility to teach them. Many of these students, previously enrolled in my sophomore Global History class, are very dear to me. I desperately want them to earn the AP credit, and I am frightened that this abbreviated test is risky.
There are so many questions. Will we return to school on April 15, 2020? Will the New York State Regents happen this year? And if not, what does that mean for students’ transcripts? Will we return to school this year, or was March 16, 2020, the last day? Will the construction in our building continue? We lived without this year. We managed without a gym, and our swim team was on the road, traveling to other facilities. Will the planned auditorium remodel occur? The 2019-2020 school year has been filled with projections and graphs. In many ways, our building’s renovations are a metaphor for our remodeling. Hopefully, when school resumes, we will be better versions of teachers and students.
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