Do We Go Virtual?

The semester is two months from ending. Sounds like a lot of time, right? But not when at least two of those weeks are disrupted by days off due to an election or Thanksgiving. Not when another week is filled with final exams. Realistically, six weeks. Tops. And then the semester ends. Which, in a four-by-four schedule, is the equivalent to a year.

In about ten days, the parents will be sent a survey. Do they want their children to attend school on a hybrid schedule with two days of in-person instruction and two/three days of virtual instruction? Or, do they want their children to move to a fully virtual schedule?

My daughter is one of those children. I am one of those parents. And I’m hemming and hawing.

My daughter’s wish is to continue attending school on the hybrid/blended schedule. And given that it is her education and her life, I will fully respect her wishes. She knows best how she learns. She understands her limitations and the fact that being in the house means continual distractions thanks to cat…dog…her father. She knows that it’s too easy for her iPod to go off and she’s off chatting with her friends when maybe she should be on a Zoom call with a teacher or watching an instructional video.

But it’s the choice. Would it be better for her to go full virtual? Because, as I watch the news and read the news and look at numbers, the rise of infections around the country is rising once more.

I’m not scare of Covid. I’m not worried about my daughter getting the disease. Maybe I should. But she’s sixteen and in good health. She’s in one of the lowest brackets for infection or risks of complications due to infection. Realistically, her getting Covid is about as dangerous as her getting a bad cold.

For me, though, I think it’s a matter of waiting. Are we going to go into another shut down? No one in the county is talking about us going fully virtual and shutting down the schools. But that sense of closing has always felt like it’s on the edge of the horizon…just waiting. Like a massive snow storm that could shut us down for a week. If the jetstream keeps going just the right way and the temperatures stay down long enough and the wind doesn’t blow….then…BOOM! Snowstorm. “Days off.”

What I will tell you is that being “off” last March was not a vacation. It was not an extended set of “snow days” or time off. Like many of my colleagues, I was working longer and harder on material. And, interestingly enough, it wasn’t on material that I was going to teach at that point. It was on material for this semester. Because all of the scientists said that we were going to have a phase two…and that it could be worse.

Virtual teaching and virtual learning is taxing on everyone. Even my face-to-face students come to class exhausted. Their eyes are dim, the circles under their eyes are barely visible given the masks. The students curl up in their desks and stare at my collaborative teaching partner and me and wait. They want to learn. They want to engage. They want to sleep and rest and relax.

They are like every other person on every side of the political spectrum. They are sick of Covid. Everyone is sick of Covid. Doesn’t matter what you think of masks or politics. I have yet to meet someone who enjoys the six feet worth of distance and the constant hand sanitization and the fact that everyone could be carrying a lethal disease.

But the reality is that Covid is not healed nor is it dead nor is it about to go away.

But neither is my job or my calling to teach and to help and to try and encourage kids to learn.

I created four writing instruction presentations for four different writing groups in my one virtual class for next week. That’s my math. That’s my purpose.

I created three reading instruction presentations.

One grammar presentation for everyone because I’m tired too.

So, do we go virtual? Do we stay “blended?” My daughter has chosen. I will respect and she will continue to go to school two days a week next semester. We will wait. Maybe we’ll have snow days…real, honest to God snow days. That would be wonderful. Snow days means puzzles. Hot tea. Fun movies. Sleeping in.

The future is on the horizon. Change will happen regardless of how high up I hold my hand or how straight and strong I thrust out my arm. I’m ready. I’m not ready.

Ah. Screw it.

I’m ready. Bring it on.

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