As I left the school building on Tuesday afternoon, I noticed an ambulance and several first responders milling about the entrance. They didn’t seem particularly “activated” so I figured they were responding to something routine. I got in my car, went home, and didn’t think too much about it.
When I got home, messages started to come in that we would be going to remote learning on Wednesday. I got a sinking feeling in my gut – I was so happy to be back to our in-school routines that the concept of teaching to silent avatars and pivoting to plan for computer screen teaching had become sort of foreign to me. Now, the wave of impending isolation crashed over my head and over the heads of all the teachers and students in my school. I could feel our collective groans through the atmosphere.
Information is disseminated very slowly in my district. They need to get the messaging right, so it is accurate, and doesn’t freak everyone out. At the same time, we were making up all sorts of scenarios in our heads – massive COVID outbreak, gas leak, who knows. None of it made any sense, but without the real scoop, we were all left to wonder.
Finally, late in the evening, I got a message with the real story – there was a suspicion of hazardous materials in certain classrooms in our building. Aesbestos, mold, who knows what, but they needed to do an abatement and they would need an empty building. Our building is quite old and not maintained as well as it should, because…money. Oy.
The end of my day was busy. I took my daughter to an appointment while I went to the gym, exhausted and spent from the activity of the day and the anticipation of what tomorrow would bring. When I got home, that’s when the “needs” came in – fill out an application, find the graphing calculator for the SAT tomorrow, oh, and also find the charging cord that is most certainly not with said calculator. Plan for your first period remote class which you have most certainly forgot how to plan for. Bedtime was a welcome relief.
We got a robocall later in the evening that we would be remote through the end of the week. My heart sank. We had developed such good progress and now if felt like it was coming to a crashing halt. Temporary, perhaps, but I am always worried about the students, particularly the ones who only marginally know what to do. There are a lot of those, and they often lose out.
I decided to plan as wisely as I could. Acknowledge the annoyance, provide mindful movement instruction that would support them sitting in front of a computer all day (and get a much-needed oxygen boost to their brains), try to have a good experience, and appreciate them for sticking with me. I love teaching and connecting with kids, so that’s what I’d go for. The classes went well, and I remembered how to conduct the video sessions so that my students would be held as accountable as possible for their own learning. It pales in comparison to face-to-face teaching and learning.
I’m not sure how long the remote status will continue, but we’ve done it before and we can do it again, if we have to. I’d rather not have to. It’s a lonely existence, in my basement, looking at two dimensions.