I feel like a brand new teacher, fresh out of student teaching. I have all these ideas that I want to try. I have a brand new gradebook. Lots of people telling me that they support me and that they are proud of me. Everything is brand new…this untapped horizon and potential.
I am exhausted. All of my ideas that I have tried keep turning belly up like bloated dead fish. My gradebook is a system of hieroglyphics and paperwork that I can interpret but might not make sense to anyone else. I move through the day, sometimes unaware of my surroundings, I am that tired.
Thus ends my first nine weeks of corona education and corona teaching.
Sure, it’s actually a lot better since the school year began.
To give context:
I teach two classes of “face-to-face” students. I see these kids two times a week, only half the class per day. Basically, I work with about 20 kids on a quasi-daily basis. Not that hard, right?
Then I have one section of virtual kids. 46 of them. Ranging in educational ability from gifted-and-talented to extreme education special needs. Not that hard, right?
I am supposed to meet with my virtual kids two times a week for about 30 minutes a session. The rest of the time, I communicate with them via email or phone calls. I am the queen of phone-call-anxiety. Or, rather, I used to be. I found my courage smeared under a rock, slicked it into my palm which I then shoved into my pocket, and now carry with me everywhere. But I can make a phone call like a pro. Especially since the person I talk to all the time is the female voicemail operator lady telling me the mailbox is full.
Teaching in the time of Corona is like stringing out one lesson over the course of either ten minutes or twenty days and not knowing which kid has mastered what skill or finished what activity because I don’t see them often enough or hear from the consistently enough or can’t remember what reading or writing group I have assigned them to. With my face-to-face kids, I teach the same lesson four times over the course of two days. But I am so weary that I can’t remember which group was at what stage of what activity. I tried writing it down. And then I lost that notebook.
I am so tired that when I assign work to Google Classroom, I will forget to actually attach the classwork to the assignments. Or, I will forget to push make it so that each student will receive their own copy. Or I will forget to set up the due date. Or the kids who are in which group. Yeah. I wrote about that earlier. I’m sorry. I’m tired.
I am sleeping at least eight hours a night. And I wake up exhausted. My one massive cup of coffee a day is definitely not cutting it. And I can’t remember to bring coffee to school to brew in my neighbor’s room because…I am too tired to remember.
Corona education is trying to do a 3-d puzzle without fingertips. I think I know what I’m doing. I’m pretty confident with my skills and abilities. Just nudge that one little piece over there and voila! I built an amazing presentation with videos and pictures and critical thinking questions. And I messed up on that one little bit of instruction over here. Nudge it a bit more with two more instructional videos and…
I have a mess! Yay for messes!!! Yay for 30 individual emailed questions about the same thing that was actually discussed two instructional videos ago that were sent to the students.
But it’s okay. We’re in a learning curve. We’re all in this together. It’s okay to make mistakes…
I recite these mantras to me consistently. The cliches are almost hysterical. I have become clairvoyant at the cliche usage and can predict with excellent accuracy what cliche the person will say down to the syllable. Or, at least I could.
But I can’t right now.
I’m too tired.
Exhaustion is its own cliche. And I live within its constantly rotating circles. I know that “this too shall pass.”
Trust me. I’ve been saying that a lot lately (damn those cliches). But I also know that people say the same thing about kidney stones and no one has ever said anything nice about kidney stone passage.
What I’ve learned about teaching in the day and age of Corona….
In all honesty, I have truly learned that I can still make a connection with a student whom I’ve never actually met.
I’ve learned that seeing dogs on Zoom gives me tons of joy and makes me wish I could bring my dog to school.
I’ve learned that humanity, even in digital form, is still precious and needs love and compassion.
I’ve learned that teaching can not be squashed into the binary language of zeros and ones.
And I’ve learned that when I’m really, really tired, I can get really, really silly.
A quarter of the year is over. And I am so incredibly thankful. I know that I can do this for the rest of the year…but God help me if this is the rest of my career. Becoming a Wal Mart greeter is starting to look very enticing….