Our “soft dismissal” means that, for the past two weeks, Utah students have been schooled at home. School at home is not to be confused with home school. Home schooled students are primarily guided by their parents; school at home students are directed by their classroom teachers AND guided by their parents. It is a joint effort and, believe me, everyone’s joints are feeling it!!
I have 110 students. At our first post-dismissal faculty meeting we were instructed to send an email to every parent telling them how their students should access our classwork. In the email we were to instruct them to respond to our email, verifying that they had read and received it. After giving them a couple days, we were to contact every parent who did not respond to our email.
On Tuesday of last week I sent 110 emails. Two days later I made 79 phone calls. By Monday I had 15 students who had not shown up at all and 16 who had not turned in any assignments. This Tuesday I made 33 more phone calls. Now I have only 5 students who have not turned in any work….which actually is a better statistic than when we meet in a physical classroom…..which is not to say that this school at home thing is better than school at school.
Across the board, the reaction seems to be that students would rather be in school. “Who would have thought that I miss school?” one student commented. “My siblings are driving me crazy” commented another. In an online survey, I asked my students what I could do to help them succeed in this new format. “Cure the coronavirus so we can go back to school,” was one response.
Parents too, seem to want their kids back in school. “This is so hard”, “I have so much more respect for teachers now”, and “I don’t know how you do this” were some of the comments I heard as I spoke with parents. My favorite is a popular meme that says “And just like that, spanking and prayer are back in school”.
Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder. Probably I really do love my students. I know that as I correct assignments, I picture the face of the student whose assignment I am assessing, I think of his/her unique gifts, I smile as I remember interactions we’ve had, and I feel a titch of tenderness...every time with every student.
Make no mistake. It has been a rough year with this particular group of students. They tested me past my limit and made me seriously consider immediate retirement. However what does not kill you makes you stronger. And I am a much, MUCH better teacher, thanks to my experience with them. I developed skills that I would have never gained had it not been for them; skills that will make a better, more effective educator for the rest of my career. And, in the process, I grew to love them. Every single one of them.
I grew to love them in the classroom. I may even love them more online. I love that the very week I started a unit on waves we had an earthquake. (Seismic waves are real!) I love that the state has cancelled end-of-level tests this year. (Dealing with unending management issues put me weeks behind teaching the core curriculum.) And I love not having to contend with classroom management issues. There are things I don’t love, things like learning how to set up video chat sessions, participating in video chat sessions, and watching videos of chat sessions. Love it or not, this is our educational reality at the moment.
Life is the stories you can tell and we all are living stories in uncharted territory right now. May we continue to work jointly together. Our success hinges on it!