Back to School in Person!

Today was the first day back at in-person school since the winter holidays began in December. On the day last week when it was announced that we would head back this week, I remember that as the news sank in, my brain gradually released this huge invisible ball of stress and I started to feel hope for the world once again.

That is to say, I’m relieved to be back. The hope for the world I was feeling was, I’m sure, heightened by other things, like Covid vaccines, the great book I’m reading (more on that later), and the new POTUS.

That month of online schooling wasn’t all bad. There were plenty of things to like about it. Some aspects were downright lovely.

Things I Enjoyed About Online Teaching:

  • No masks, face shields, or hand sanitizer.
  • No harping, “Keep your distance!” all the time.
  • Comfy pants and moccasins all day.
  • Mute button.
  • Access to my own coffee.
  • Hugs from my kids during the day.
  • Getting to see Sean (at least for a bit) even when he’s on the evening shift.
  • Being in my own space.
  • Sleeping in – or at least letting the kids sleep in – a bit.
  • Taking walks at recess.
  • Wearing lipstick.
  • No supervision duty.
  • Not having to physically get out the door in the mornings.
  • Seeing the students’ pets and little siblings. One of my classes even got to see our pets, too.
AB learned how to caption her own photos recently. Ramona is her favourite subject.

Now that I look at that list, though, it’s not really about teaching. Pretty much all the stuff that’s actually about teaching is harder.

Things I Won’t Miss About Online Teaching:

  • “Hey… you’re muted.”
  • Frozen face.
  • “Madame, you’re super-glitchy and we didn’t hear anything you just said.”
  • That Google quiz that wouldn’t tell me whose marks were whose (I ended up having to match time stamps of when each child submitted the test).
  • Wondering where those camera-off children are on the continuum from Listening Intently to Instructions to In Another Room Getting Snacks.
  • Wondering whether the ones I never see are having technical difficulties or are just overwhelmed and focusing on core subjects. Or got sidetracked by YouTube. Or independently decided they were going to watch YouTube instead.
  • My own daughter getting sidetracked by YouTube and not doing her work and then getting all stressed about being behind.
  • My kids accidentally being late for Meets because there are no bells to remind them.
  • My kids asking for food while I’m teaching.
  • My son insisting he should get to wear his bathrobe over his clothes every day for class. (I eventually gave up arguing on this one.)
  • Trying to explain anything visual with no blackboard.
  • No choral speaking for the Core French program that’s based on choral speaking.
  • Keeping track of work and Meet links for eight different classes. Somehow the virtual format makes me feel way more scattered and stressed than eight actual classrooms.
  • Kids who have never been to their virtual classroom and have no idea where to find anything.
  • “Did you turn in the assignment? Did you actually hit ‘Turn in’? Okay, did you attach the photo at all? Oh, you emailed it? Which email did you send it to? Oh, you just shared it with me on the Drive. It’s not here though… I’m not seeing it. So let’s just take a screen shot of your work right now. Okay, hold it still. Up a little bit – back toward your face. Umm. Let’s try again. Hold it really really still. Actually wait, turn off your blurry background…” x 50 different kids.
  • Never being quite sure how far in advance to plan, or what type of lessons to plan.
  • Seemingly endless hours of preparation – I can’t explain it, but the prep takes literally four times as long, or more with unforeseen glitches.
  • Along with that, the never-ending sitting.
  • The most exhausting set of report cards I’ve ever done. (Finished at 10 pm last night.)

So yes, it was a relief to be back today, protocols notwithstanding. Even though on morning supervision it was cold enough that taking off my glasses was the only way to be unfogged enough to see. It was great to see real faces and be in the real community.

It seems that most of the kids – including mine – had similar pros and cons in mind today. They liked being in their own space, with their comfy chairs (or beds) and snacks and pets, rather than in their desks. They loved not wearing masks. But they missed their friends – even if they saw them every day on screens, there’s no denying it: it’s simply not the same.

And a lot of them found the online format really difficult. For some, trying to absorb information in this way was almost impossible – and quite anxiety-inducing. Again, it can’t be denied: teaching and learning work better in person.

***

P.S. As I write this, speculation is still flying about whether the government will cancel March break. On the one hand, they say it’s for kids who didn’t manage the online work to catch up. On the other hand, they say they will follow the advice of Public Health as to whether cancellation is recommended to disincentivize travel. Which is a bit fishy. What was the true original impetus? The usual kick in the teeth, I’m guessing?

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