Pro tip: it isn’t Homeschooling, as I see people complaining about on Facebook. Teachers are remote teaching and parents are in the house during the implementation and practice phase. If it were homeschooling, parents would be planning the lessons, gathering the resources, and grading the outcome. It gets worse, parents. Be cautious about what you complain.
Still, education has changed a lot in the last month. After 20 plus years in the classroom, 2020 marks the first time I have taught from the comfort of my house. Education Week states that there are 15, 609 teachers and 290,885 K-12 students in Idaho. At this time, I believe that most of that number are working through remote teaching and remote learning.
Here are some impressions after two weeks of our Remote Learning Plan, as our district is calling it.
I like learning new concepts, which probably explains why I have made my career in education. I have enjoyed learning some new technology tricks during this pandemic.
Microsoft Teams is our chosen vehicle for communicating with students and it has proven to be a useful platform. I can even see myself using Teams in a traditional classroom as I move forward. Like most technology tricks, it has its place. Necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case, a reason to learn a new technology trick or two.
In other tech news, I figured out how to record videos on Flipgrid. I would have never guessed I would be recording five-minute videos in my office, talking to my students. It weird, but kind of normal because I’m used to standing in front of 30 students and talking to them. It has proven a quicker and far more efficient means of communication than trying to type everything for students. Then, they can reply below the post with questions and I can answer them. That’s kind of cool. Plus, students can see the depth and power of my neckbeard as it takes on a life of its own during Corona Break.
I have always been jealous of people who started work at 9:00 AM. I always wanted to be able to get up at 7:00, work out for an hour, have a cup of coffee, and roll into a day. That’s basically what I do now. It’s legit. Normally, I am pulling into the school parking lot at 6:45 AM. That seems so far away right now. Starting the day after the sunrise is new and exciting.
My chocolate lab, Diesel, is getting very spoiled. I walk my dogs twice a day. He thinks Corona Break is the greatest concept ever invented. He lies by my wife’s or my feet, getting as many free pets, all day long, as he possibly can. I am starting to understand why he gets excited and spins around when it’s time to go for a walk. I kind of feel the same way when I get to leave the house now. I’m learning from my dog how to find the good in the little details.
I am also liking having some autonomy in my schedule. I have been listening to school bells and peeing within five minute passing periods my entire life. Now, I go to the bathroom when I feel like it. I eat when I feel like it. I walk outside in the sunshine for no reason other than I feel like it. There are some big-time pros to this teaching from home thing.
I am drowning in emails. Every student needs something, and if I have 200 students, that’s 200 something’s a day that I no longer can just answer in conversation. It’s exhausting.
Now, I’m not complaining about the students or the interaction. The Biggest Bad to this whole deal is not going to school and not seeing everyone. I miss my football coaching staff, my classroom neighbors, and my students. I miss the jokes, the hard times, the music in the hallways. I miss kids saying hi.
I miss 7:39 AM, right before the first bell of the day, when I am prepared for a day of teaching and about to start it. I miss double-checking that I have my handouts on the side shelf where I want them, that my Get Started PowerPoint is on the screen, and walking to the door. I miss standing outside my door and saying hi to kids as they come to class. I miss telling kids to take their hats off in the hallway. I miss saying hi to other teachers.
Another interesting topic among remote teachers is I have more meetings from home than I ever had at school. I have a meeting every day at 10:00 AM. For teachers, having that many staff meetings and collaboration meetings is its own circle of Dante’s Hell.
It is hard to stop working from home, which is proving to be another tough aspect of remote learning. If I don’t log off my computer and force myself to not check emails from my phone, I just don’t stop working. It is way too easy to try and deal with each email as it comes in, so they don’t pile up.
I did this for a day or two. I don’t do it anymore. Emails can pile up now. We all need breaks, even if it only involves walking from the office room to the living room in our house.
I have learned that this much screen time makes my eyes go funky. I have to make sure that I turn the computer off and stay off my phone. I keep reading social media articles that kids are doing a better job playing outside and staying off their phones. Teachers, unfortunately, are way worse about this right now. Pray for our eyes.
I’m not sure if this is Good or Bad, so I will start with it under the Ugly. Teaching from home makes the day fly by. I mean, Nitro Top Fuel Funny Car Fast. I generally sit down at my computer around 8:00 AM and I am shocked how fast I get to lunch time. Answering emails or having video meetings takes up most mornings, and I’m not kidding, I blink and it’s noon. I eat and watch the news on my couch for 45 minutes, and then it is back to office hours between 1:00 and 3:00.
During office hours there are more emails, more reassessments, and more planning with grade-level teachers. Before I know it, it’s 3:30, like it is now, and I try to get some writing done. This keeps happening every day. Ever see Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day? I’ve always loved that movie, but it’s happening and I understand it now. Today is Friday and I swear it was Wednesday this morning when I woke up. Time has taken on this unique paradox, where it has stopped moving and sped up, all at the same time. It’s surreal.
For most of my working life, I have been pretty lucky. I have never been one who complains too much about my job. I have some friends who truly hate their jobs. I don’t. I have always referred to it as “going to school.” I don’t think of myself as “going to work.” And I think that is a big distinction for me — I have always loved school, especially high school.
So to think about going to school, rather than going to work, has helped me not get hung up on my job. I think this will be true once schools are back in session.
I can’t wait until I can go to school again. I won’t complain about getting up early and peeing in four and a half minutes. As nice as it is to work out later in the morning and dress in sweats, I’m betting most teachers will be ecstatic to get back in the classroom and stand by their doors, helping kids remember to take their hats off inside the building, and saying “Good morning. Welcome to class.”