Tomorrow starts the beginning of a new phase of the school year. Tomorrow is the day when I begin to teach kids online and in person simultaneously. For many teachers this has been their reality all year, but for me, it’s brand new. As more kids are returning to school, the in-person classes were getting too big, and the online only classes were shrinking. Most grade levels didn’t really have an issue with this, but our grade level was set up a little differently, so we had to make some adjustments.
Rereading my previous blog post at this time was a good reminder of why we do the things we do. Am I stressed out about this new way of teaching? You bet. But do I think it will be in the best interest of the most kids? Yes, I do. I’m sure I’m going to fumble around a little at first. I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes. I’m sure there will be times when things don’t go according to plan. But I’m also sure that I can figure it out, with the help of my students, teammates, and colleagues. If a teacher can’t embrace learning something new, it would be hypocritical of them to expect their students to rise to new challenges.
I will rise. I will do my best. I will model how to handle coping with things that may be confusing or frustrating. I will muddle through. And through it all, I will be delighted to have actual human children right there in the room with me, as well as those tiny digital people online cheering me on. Here’s to a new challenge for this old teacher. It’s going to be great.
I’ve felt tongue-tied recently. At least online. I want to write, but I’m not exactly sure what to write about. Naturally there are the BIG things. Things like justice, equity, access to healthcare, governmental responsibility, constituent responsibility, the role of media, the role of the courts, the issue of personal responsibility, the issue of public health.
I’ve stayed away from the BIG topics because I feel like a blog isn’t the right place for me to share my thoughts about them. It’s too one-sided. There are my words, then your interpretation of what I mean, then maybe a comment from you and a reply from me and that’s about it. There’s so much room for ambiguity and misunderstanding. There’s so much margin for error. I prefer to discuss these topics in a more two-sided way, with give and take from both parties. We don’t learn from one another by making proclamations, then closing our eyes, ears, and hearts.
So if not the BIG things, then what? There are plenty of things rattling around in my brain, but they seem so trivial at a time like this. In light of the pandemic raging and the U.S. Capitol being overrun, does anyone really want to read about my seemingly never-ending quest for just the right hand cream? Maybe. After all, I’m not the only one washing my hands excessively this winter.
Or maybe you want to hear about my brownie fail? I’ve made this recipe dozens of times, if not more. These brownies are the best. They ALWAYS turn out. Except the other day they didn’t. The closest I can figure is that I either set the oven for the wrong temperature (maybe 325 instead of 375?) or I set the timer for the wrong amount of time (13 minutes instead of 23?). I was distracted. I had more important things on my mind (more about that in a minute), and I rushed. Sure, they looked a little strange when I pulled them out of the oven, but they weren’t jiggly or anything. And no, I didn’t test them, because why would I? After all, I’ve made them dozens of times, if not more, and I was distracted. They’re still pretty tasty, but they are definitely underdone. Like, way underdone. They hold together, but really, they’re not exactly cooked. Oops.
And why was I distracted? Well, because if was just about kickoff time, and my football team is in the playoffs. Yes, the Buffalo Bills are showing up and it’s glorious. This football season has been a welcome distraction from the BIG things. The team has done so well, and they’ve been so much fun to watch. It’s been a long time since the Bills have gone this far, and it’s a ton of fun. Thank you, Buffalo Bills.
Then there are a bunch of “other” things. Things like the stolen credit card number (that my credit card company caught, thank goodness), the glitchy connection to my online students, and the thousands of spam messages to this blog. There’s the job hunt my son has been enduring, and not seeing much of him due to this stupid pandemic. There’s the mountain of work I need to do in order to complete the requirements to be considered for National Board Certification (for teachers), as well as the professional observation I need to schedule. There’s the concern about going out into the community that has kept me from the dentist and the hair salon, making me feel somewhat like a cave-woman. There’s the worry that I feel for my friends and loved ones, as the list of people I know who’ve been diagnosed with this horrible disease grows. There’s the anxiety of watching the news, but the feeling that I have to keep informed. There’s the wrath that my colleagues and I face from some members of the public, in our community and beyond, because our schools are functioning in an online only capacity for the time being. There’s a lot. And here we are, right back to the BIG things. They’re impossible to ignore.
It seems to me that it’s the big things that frame our lives, but it’s the small things that make them worth living. I’ll set up my observation, and continue the quest for the perfect hand cream. I’ll keep working my way through my National Board materials. I’ll keep looking for work-arounds when our Google meet goes wonky. I won’t give up on that brownie recipe, and I won’t give up on my football team. In the middle of all this crazy, you can still hear me shouting, “Go Bills!”
It’s no secret that the online world has exploded as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re doing so much more via the internet than ever before. In the time since shifting from in person fourth grade to online fourth grade, I’ve had to use no fewer than 30 different programs, websites, and apps to do my job. Some of these I’ve navigated for years, like the online gradebook and attendance system our district uses. Some of them are new to me, since going virtual, like the Ladibug software that allows my document camera to play nicely with my laptop, only sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s what trips me up.
I can handle seeing my kids through a screen. I can figure out ways to connect to them and to teach them the things I’m tasked with teaching. I can talk with them, laugh with them, and encourage them. I can do all these things when the technology I’m using works.
For some mysterious reason, the technology hasn’t been working well recently, at least not from my home. This is not just baffling, but it’s terribly concerning. First, the confusion part. You see, in March, when we starting distance learning, everything more or less worked. I set up my Google classroom, opened up my Google meets, and shared documents through my Google drive. It worked. Then we started a new school year, online. Everything still worked. Then, during our Fall Break, my name was finally called to trade in my old laptop for a new one. Fine. After Fall Break I was still doing virtual teaching, but I was teaching from my classroom (because I required to). Still no major problems, until things changed and I tried to teach from home. UGH.
At my home, my Google classroom sometimes loads with no problem, and other times it decides that it would just rather not. Sometimes my Google meets run smoothly, and other times they freeze repeatedly, kick me out multiple times, and then decide to just not work at all. It’s impossible to teach that way.
I know there’s nothing wrong with my wifi. I’m not the only one who uses it, and my live-in tech guru has assured me that our internet is fine. The only change is in the laptop. It just doesn’t want to let me teach from my home. I’ve called for help and the patient IT person worked with me to try a few different things. They didn’t fix the problem. The worst part about the situation is that ten minutes before class starts everything looks fine, but twenty minutes later I’m no longer able to deliver my lesson to my students.
I’ve hastily packed up my things midmorning and driven into school on more than one occasion so that I can teach, but this pandemic is getting worse, and I don’t want to leave my home if I don’t have to. I have the option of teaching from home, at least for the next couple of weeks, and I would like to use that option. With my current tech situation, though, I’m worried I won’t be able to.
I need a solution, and right now there’s nobody to talk to about fixing this. Maybe I’ll be able to get some help on Monday, but I’m a little skeptical. Nobody else seems to be having any trouble connecting (and staying connected) with their new computers. Why is mine the exception? Goes to show you, newer isn’t always better. I just want my old laptop back, so I can teach.