It’s week threeish of home school and I figured you guys might like an update. Well, maybe more to the point, I need an outlet…
Have there been technical difficulties? Yes. Have there been emails and calls from teachers chasing work that wasn’t submitted. Yes. Have there been moments when we wanted to throw laptops on the fire. Yes. Have I walked in from work to a child with red, puffy eyes whose not getting the support he needs from either school or home. Yes. Have I hugged my boys and told them this is just a learning curve and everyone is struggling and they’re doing amazingly in the circumstances? Yes. Have I retreated more than once to the bedroom and cried feeling helpless….you can guess right?
It’s been hard.
The first couple of days went well as we planned to feel like we didn’t know what we were doing. And we didn’t. But the planning for it, helped. We gave ourselves the grace to feel overwhelmed. We knew there would be technical and logistical and even personal road blocks along the way which may threaten to disrupt this unexpected journey to junior high and high school success. We knew the upcoming virtual learning would be very different from what had been offered in the spring. And after three months of summer aimlessly passing by, I felt my boys (and me) were ready to have structure and a routine back in our lives. So we accepted the confusion of the “learning management system” on which the school was delivering the classes with aforementioned grace and allowed ourselves not to get too upset by it all.
By the second week, we assumed we’d be getting the hang of navigating the system. Mwahahahaha!! Wrong!! It’s the end of week 3 and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sworn at the damn computer. I swear (frequently and with the enthusiasm of a drunken sailor) that this system has actually been developed as one of the first of the Terminator’s Skynet programs hell bent on annihilating whatever vague remnant of hope remains that I had left of getting out of 2020 with a shred of sanity. On one page, the task states it’s not submitted on another it has been. So I go back to double check and apparently, I don’t have permission to access the page I just bloody accessed less than 60 seconds before! The thing is sentient and hates me. I don’t know how long I’ve spent on it trying to fathom whether my kids are staying on top of their workload. Probably enough time to do half their missing work…bloody tempting but they’ve probably done it already and
Skynet Canvas is just giving me the runaround.
And then there’s the work. I couldn’t decide before if starting a new school for both of them was a bonus as it meant the unknown expectations of virtual school would marry with the unknown expectations of junior high and high school. I think I decided it would be a blessing. Now, I just want to go back in time: for them to have their old teachers who knew their capabilities and quirks. Back to those who with just their familiar friendly face offered support and comfort in navigating this new unknown.
Now, it’s a sea of equally friendly looking faces but whose habits and quirks are unknown also…were they joking there? Does she recognize he’s joking? Does she know that within the class of 30 students she’s got this period (and excluding those kiddos from the six other periods she’s trying to remember and manage)…does she know that my boy has an IEP? That he needs an extra 20 seconds to process a question and his silence doesn’t mean he doesn’t know and if she prompts him again to break the silence currently echoing loudly through the zoom class, it will require an extra 25 seconds for him to get back to his answer? Does she immediately know he cannot take notes and listen at the same time? Does she know his frustrations is not at her, but borne out of being unable to learn in this virtual environment rather than being unwilling to learn? Does he know she’s trying her hardest too? In this virtual environment, how can they? It’s hard enough in class to develop relationships immediately in a classroom environment.
Does the teacher realize when I reply to her email or even send her another email at 9pm about a different issue that’s cropped up, I’m not expecting an immediate response: I don’t email between office hours because they’re my office hours too. It feels like when I want to talk to the folks back in England: it’s like we’re in different times zones. I don’t want to encroach on her personal time (because I’m not convinced these poor teachers are getting any at the minute) but I have to reach out and hope that she doesn’t see it till her work hours. And when the phone rings at gone 8.30pm on a Friday night, I don’t expect it to be a teacher whose checking in with us but it is and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
We told ourselves at the beginning of this that we’d be ok but my confidence is waning. May be I’m not giving it enough time to settle in but whereas a watched pot never boils, this one seems to be simmering rapidly with bubbles of anxiety and stress, dangerously close to the brim and ready to explode all over the sides of our pans. My worry is it’s happening while my back’s turned at work. Is it ruining our appetites for education? Do I turn off the pot completely? Do I turn it down? Do I just let it keep simmering and hope we can clear up the mess and start again soon?
Wow! I’m being a real Negative Nelly aren’t I? So the upsides:
My boys are learning patience. With all the technical wifi and
Skynet Canvas issues, they have to.
My boys are learning how to deal with problems by self advocating. One of them is definitely good at self advocating but his approach needs a little work: and the teacher sent me the screenshots to prove it!!
I’ve been blown away by their attitudes to being in class. My ADHDers are rocking their time management with the help of their phone alarms. Despite my fears of You Tube being a bigger pull with no one to stop them, they’re doing the majority of the work independently and turning up to participate in all the zoom calls. Good works boys!
I’ve learned my helicopter can be allowed to park. I have the engine fuelled and ready to fly at any moment but I’m discovering the boys are far more capable of being independent than I was ready to believe.
We’re improving our self care habits. With all the stress of the last week, we’re actively trying to find outlets to delineate work and school space from home space. Talking about the frustrations of our day and making plans to deal with them and then heading off to You Tube or Doom or Seattle Grace to cry and laugh with the beautiful doctors (we’ve just finished season 2 and I think we’ll have completed Netflix when we finally finish whatever season they’re upto). Later today we’re heading out for some much needed and long awaited pinball wizardry.
I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I know I’m not the only one struggling. I know virtual learning works for some. Even for my boys, it works some of the time. But when it doesn’t, despite our best efforts, it’s so upsetting. I am only ever as happy as my least happiest child and at the minute, one of them is not happy. We’ll keep plodding on and hope things settle as we go into week four….it’s got to, right? May be Arnie’ll turn up to save us all from Skynet!
I was going to call this post “Bad Day”- the Daniel Powter song because I’d had a doozy of one when I started thinking of this post but the next song that played was The Beach Boys’ Kokomo and I figured if we could attend virtual school, then I could escape to a virtual holiday and started day dreaming about lazing on a white sandy beach, watching the distant clouds of virtual learning billowing high in the distance: a worry for another day, whilst the surf gently laps at the shore with a cool margarita in one hand and a good book in the other. So on this long Labor Day weekend, that’s my plan: to daydream a while longer…well, after I’ve fuelled up the helicopter again and written one more email to his teacher….
How’s your experience of going back to school covid style? Are you happy with the virtual learning or enjoying the face to face option?