Distance Teaching and Learning: Week 9

You know it's serious if there's no picture. Serious because I'm too tired to bother, amirightoramiright?

It's week nine of distance teaching for me, distance learning for my son. Where I live in Southern California we have moved from the bottom tier of various indicators to the next level up (is this a video game?) and there are plans to begin planning to head back into the classroom in the near-ish future. 

Yes. Plans to make plans. And near-ish. The powers-that-be are oozing information. 

Like every step of the way thus far, I have very mixed feelings. I am so exhausted of this life- I work at least ten or eleven hours a day Monday-Thursday, a regular contractual day Friday, and then probably eight or so hours on the weekend, which means I am putting in close to sixty hours a week right now. I also help my son with all of his school work, take care of all domestic matters, deal with the puppy, and try to maintain some sort of hobbies and social life (from afar). 

As a teacher, besides having to work many more hours a week now, it's been hard to get a solid read on my kids. As horrible as it is to say it, teachers are part performers and we feed off the responses of our audience aka the students. I can tell so much by looking at my class in person; if they're engaged, if they understand, IF THEY ARE AWAKE. Online it's different- they're awesome at turning on their cameras and participating when asked or called on, but I can't see their expressions or if they're playing around on their phones off screen. I have my students twice a week for 80-minute blocks, as opposed to five time a week for a little less than an hour a day- that's a huge loss of time for content. I feel like I have to over-compensate sometimes and be accessible ALL the time and be super energetic and warm whenever I'm on camera (not that I want to be a drag, but it just gets tiring, you know?).

My son is doing well enough with his situation. He is in a different district than I am, and their requirements are a little different. Instead of lots of synchronous (live) teaching all day, they want the teachers to do about an hour of Zoom and then around four hours of pre-recorded high-quality lessons (for primary grades). His teacher is doing an amazing job- I have absolutely no complaints about her role in all of this. The content itself is really manageable for him, since a lot of it feels like review still, at least for him. The computer skills aspect is totally different; he is so new to using a laptop that so often it feels that his "drag and drop" skills are being tested more than anything.

Socially, I am heartbroken for him. He is an only-child and has not had a face-to-face interaction with another kid since March. I've read articles telling me that his connections with his parents at this age are the most important, but still, he needs to be around his peers. He has maintained a positive attitude and is still a really happy kid, but he does make comments about missing his friends from his old school and wanting to "go to fun places." He is starting a completely new school when we do go back, so I guess on one level it's been a good transition having him see him teacher and classmates on Zoom every day, but still, our current situation is not a sufficient substitute. Plus, let's be honest: sometimes I don't want to be his playmate and often am short on time. 

There are some positives to the distance thing, I guess. I don't have to pay for any sort of childcare and am not losing hours of my life to commuting. I have had to really rethink my approaches to the curriculum and become as efficient as possible (both with teaching and in my non-work life, since I now have to accommodate so muck work at home). I've also had to work on new ways to be engaging and reach students as well. I'm sure there are many who are doing much better than I am, but I can genuinely say that I am doing the best job I possibly can for my personal circumstances. I also have a much better understanding of Google Classroom now and have added a few other programs I would have never into my repertoire. 

I am pleased that our districts didn't rush back into the classroom and start back in August and I am hopeful that when we do get a return date every effort will be made to keep everyone safe. I have a lot of faith in Sawyer's school and teacher; his class is small as is and I've seen pictures of what it looks like inside. Little kids, for the most part, can be convinced to follow rules and I know that Sawyer has a decent understanding of how to stay safe. I am worried about my teenage students, though. I feel like I can keep myself healthy, especially with the abundance of plexiglass in my classroom right now (around each student desk, around my desk, and a plexiglass wall to teach in back of... oh my god). But what happens when the kids start mingling with each other between classes? Because they will. No matter what we tell them, it's just the way it is. They're fourteen to eighteen years old- we don't trust them to vote, buy alcohol, join the military, and half of them can't drive. They may not be ready to be left to their own devices with the virus lurking around.

So, nine weeks in. I don't like it, I'm tired, but I'm really trying to push forward and take what comes. If we start back in two weeks, so be it- I've got an order of super cute masks coming for us any day now. If they say Sawyer starts in three weeks and me three months- I'll make it work. If we all go back after Christmas, falalala we'll do what we're told. I'm not going to sit here and complain about admin or the state- this is all so new. We've never been in a pandemic before and we're trying to keep people safe. Under regular times we can barely hold it together! I'm tired of people spewing facts- even statistically if that means one staff member at my school dies that's ONE TOO MANY. But I get it. We can't do this forever. I just want people to be empathetic, that's all, and I'm just so disappointed in some of the things I've heard from people I didn't realize were such jerks. 

I often feel like I am on the cusp of breaking, between the workload I've described here and other cards I keep closer to my chest. But I can't. I have my own child, a puppy, 140ish students, and my own damn self-respect. So, every day I get up, I make my lists, drink my coffee, and keep on keeping on, remembering what I can eventually look forward to, who I can turn to support, and why I do it all. Forward motion. Survival is insufficient. 

It's all we can do. 


  1. For what it's worth, that was beautifully written! Expresses so much of what we are all feeling so well. I think the phrase "hang in there" has never been more appropriate.

  2. I've been teaching music lessons online since the pandemic started, but they're all one-on-one. I can't imagine teaching a full class! It's a LOT more work than I expected it to be.