The days have not been pleasant, but the memes have been nothing short of gold. A nation of children suddenly barred from their schools. Parents and guardians left analyzing Moodle, Google classroom, or pages of light grey workbook pages. Some set up makeshift classrooms in the dining room, others at the kitchen counter. Suddenly my J.K. Rowling inner monologue clues me onto one certainty – teachers everywhere are universally appreciated.
As the first week crawled along like an 18-wheeler with the parking brake engaged, there was a small shift in the narrative I could see in my social media: pledges of a lack of parent-led teaching at home, and the world is now a classroom.
I certainly have empathy for those who lack the resources or the ability to help their children learn from home. Healthcare employees are working around the clock. Wage earners are scrambling for some hours somewhere. People who can move to computer platforms are doing so, and in a lot of instances, have more work than ever before. And I also have empathy for those who are making lemon quarantinis about of all these lemons; seeing this as a time to spend with family like never before.
But as for me, I am teaching.
It might not be the most cleverly engaging lesson I’ve ever planned before, but I am teaching. In the midst of entertaining my toddlers and making sure their own brains don’t turn to Disney+ mush, I am still teaching. In a few short days I’ve been ask “how” and “why” a lot, so I’ve tried to summarize my thoughts here.
Learning must continue.
Whether it be in a Google classroom or planting tomato vines in the backyard, expanding the horizons of our children’s knowledge is paramount. We will come out of the other side of this mess thanks to the sacrifice of so many. August will come and our children will advance to the next grades. Making sure the road from this scary time to the new normal is paved and without gaps is the best gift we can give our children.
What some people can’t see is the process of learning in and of itself is important. It’s important to present challenges to children and have them critically think. So while some may not see value in what we are able to put out into our digital classrooms, the lessons are rarely just about adverbs or the water cycle or polynomials. The lessons are actually about synthesis, meaning making, and seeing a whole, complete picture of how something functions.
My next lesson is on the Civil Rights movement. Without fail every year, I have students comment, “I had no idea [racism] was that bad.” They might have to memorize the difference between the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 65 with a roll of their eyes while scrolling through Tik Tok, but someone will see a different past than they’ve had built in their minds. A past that must be recognized in order for present problems to also be recognized. This is why I’m still teaching.
Learning creates a safe haven.
I have never been able to control what home life is like when my kids leave the grounds and go home. I’ve been privy to a lot of hard conversations in the counselor’s office. I’ve received a lot of emails that still sit in my throat like an undigested pill. Some of my kids might roll their eyes as I slowly list Lyndon B. Johnson’s domestic policies, but at least they can hear my voice. Maybe they’ll laugh at the fact I STILL can’t say Vietnamese correctly (I have a slight speech impediment). For a little while, my recorded lecture feels like any other day.
So much of high school life happens on the back end of the academic year. I’d imagine it’s the same for other grades as well. The things they were looking forward to might have been their only beacon in a stormy home life. It’s right and just that they are feeling upset and cheated. While they might not see my class as a way to make up for a postponed prom, Challenge Day, mission trips, and more, I hope it steadies them until the beacon can be seen again.
So I’ll be on my computer a little more than I’d like to in the next coming weeks. Piles of grading will turn into hours playing back my voice recordings or simply yelling at my computer to obey my will. My students will bemoan the work as pointless. My children will clamp to my legs, screaming as I try to Skype answers to a review. The bun on the top of my head will never be considered professional. But I will keep teaching.
I know it hard for you, Mama. You have enough on your plate. These are weird times, and your family’s well being is hanging in the balance. I promise it’s hard for us teacher moms too. I’d love to cut everything off and snuggle my babies all day every day. But that’s not what any of us signed up for. You do what you need to do without judgement or worry.
As for me and these next few weeks, I will be teaching.