“I’m only going to do it if it is required!” “Just because I am on there doesn’t mean I am engaged at all!” “I miss soccer.” “I’m not really learning, I am only doing lots of homework.” “I am sick of not seeing real people.” “Never thought I would say it, but I miss school.” “I miss soccer.” “No one can tell me how to do ‘wellness’, mom, I just want to play video games.” “I am tired of doing things that don’t really count.” “I miss soccer.”
Yep, these are statements heard in Merle Kingdom lately. And, from all reports, they are pretty common in many people’s homes about now. After 8 weeks of virtual learning, my teenage kids have just about had it. My introvert is doing OK, although she does FaceTime with a friend every day to work through her assignments. My extrovert is starting to show the strain of distance learning, sustained academic rigor with less support, no soccer practice, and minimal socializing. Although AP exams are looming, he is definitely showing signs of being done with his junior year. And mom and dad are feeling the strain of it, as well. This was the first Mother’s Day that I did not spend on a sideline in years, and I really missed it. Who would have thought?!
I will be honest – I am scared about the future, and continued distance learning next fall. As varied entities talk about the different possibilities that may exist next September (in-class, combination of some in-class and some virtual, all virtual), I truly worry that none of us can handle much more of this. If a high-achieving kid living in a home that has a full refrigerator and two parents with some skills is struggling, what is happening in those homes where kids are taking care of their siblings, worrying about what there is to eat, or don’t have access to virtual learning at all? What is happening in those homes where kids are strictly working out of packets, that don’t really count? What about the kids in homes with single parents who are not working and feeling financial strain? What about the kids struggling with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, or emotional challenges? And I worry that, because many of our teachers rose up to the challenge and attempted to provide some really good distance learning, went on home visits, called and checked in with their kiddos, and made the best out of a bad situation, leaders may think that this is always the easy option. It is not. Distance learning can NEVER replace what we do in the classroom. Humans crave personal interaction and connection. Even our most introverted children still want to have someone to bond with and talk to.
I was struggling to think about what I wanted to say in this week’s blog so I decided honesty is the best policy. I have been reading, attending webinars, researching, talking with teachers about what has been working, zooming with colleagues about what they are seeing, planning for improved virtual learning, etc. But, deep down, I am starting to feel sad and worried about the effects of this spring and the possibility it will continue. I am using all of my tools to keep us going over here in MK, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t already counting down to the end of the school year, and praying for the miracle that will allow schools to reopen as usual in September. I am planning for a virtual world, with PD options and new trainings, but I am trying to figure out how I can do what I love to do best – connect with people, build relationships, and impact students. I am writing my federal, state and local lawmakers to let them know that tele-education can never match the quality and depth of learning that takes place inside the walls of a school building. I am signing every petition that crosses my computer and passing it on. I am worrying about my fellow educators, and hoping that they are taking care of themselves. And I am hugging my kids . . . a lot.
Thank you for letting me take this time to vent my worries. It is one of the tools I use to keep moving forward. Air it out, rip it up, and figure out how to move on. So, in the spirit of moving on, let me tell you what we are doing to keep us going for the next six weeks or so.
1 – A new white board easel is on the way from Amazon! (I have had no problem keeping the economy going from my computer.) It will not just be used for training but for my own home. Intention for the day, and some “To-Do’s” that include school work, chores, and FUN!!!! Those are just important as the work!
2 – Refreshing our schedule and activities – just like in the classroom, sometimes procedures stop working. So you reteach the procedure, pretending that everyone just forgot. Well, everyone around here has just slipped into some unhealthy patterns so we are doing a refresh and start anew. The sunshine, if it ever comes, should help!!
3 – A new puppy!! I know – not everyone can get a new puppy to keep their house going. But we need the distraction and the joy that a new puppy brings. (OK, my rescue friends, stay calm – we have been trying for months to find a rescue that would meet our allergy needs but they go so quickly! We found a reputable breeder and are up for a one day road trip to Ohio!) We have had our share of loss this spring and last year so we are bringing in a little new life and hope into MK. Top 3 name choices are Jackson (as in Percy), Arlo (Rosa’s dog on Brooklyn 99) & Barney (as in Stinson.)
Please take care of yourself, take some deep breaths, get up and move around more, do what you can to refresh your spirit, and reach out to me if you just need to vent. I look forward to seeing you in whatever way I can – Zoom, Google Meet, or in person!