A Modern Day School House

I’m back in the saddle again. Each Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I do a bit of remote teaching. I admittedly have the brightest most well behaved students imaginable. They are always ready for the challenges of mathematics and it is quite fun to be around them, especially in these days when I am still reluctant to take many chances of being infected by Covid-19. I give all the kudos to their devoted parents who dedicate their attention to homeschooling them. It is delightful to be able to help these delightful young people move forward with their education.

In many ways my students and their families  are ahead of the curve that Covid-19 has inflicted on so many learners accustomed to public school education. They already know how to operate from their homes and they do so quite efficiently and effectively. They already had dedicated classroom space with whiteboards, computers and school supplies long before I came along. The students belong to different coop programs that provide enrichment in art, languages, writing, problem solving as such. This is where they have contact with other kids their age and develop knowledge in their special interests. They often end up taking dual credit classes at one of the junior or community colleges when they reach the high school level. They lead emotionally healthy and busy lives while managing to get the acquisition of knowledge done far more quickly than would happen in a traditional classroom.

Right now I am teaching a variety of mathematics classes. My youngest students are at the fourth grade level and the older ones are now in Algebra II. They are so attentive that I am often able to cover what would be a week’s worth of curriculum in a large classroom in one or two hours each week. We have no interruptions or difficulties with classroom management. It is easy to keep moving forward while also checking regularly for understanding. We even have time for a bit of conversation to catch up on how everyone is doing and of course I try to bring laughter into the lessons as well. 

I used to hold my sessions in the homes of the students but due to the virus I now use Zoom to work with them remotely. It is definitely not as much fun but we were able to finish out the spring semester with no problems and now we are beginning a new school year with hardly a blip. One family even installed a big screen television in their home classroom and connected the computer to it so that I am bigger than life as I go through the lessons.

Preparation for remote teaching is far more time consuming that being face to face. I have to be certain that my students will have all of the supplies that they need and I still want to assess their work regularly to determine where any problems may be. For that reason I have developed a system of rotating baskets each week. One contains everything the students will need for the coming  lessons and  the other contains completed work from the students. I have provided each student with a white board and dry erase pens as a way to get rapid responses as we learn various concepts. Putting all of those things together and driving them back and forth actually provides me with an excuse for getting out of the house so I am not complaining at all.

I have learned to live with Covid-19. Like anyone else I would love to be free to do all of the traveling and enjoying retired life that was once my routine but I’m willing to hang loose until there is a green light alerting us to an all clear. I really can’t complain because my home is comfortable. I have been able to procure anything that I have needed. I’ve learned to travel at a social distance in my trailer. I still write each day and I am almost finished with a final edit of my book. I keep quite busy and now I have my students back to provide me with a worthy purpose during the interim.

I know that students are returning to school all over the country and I genuinely hope that they and their teachers will have a healthy and happy school year. I would hate to think that things will begin to fall apart because I sense that many are beginning to unravel from the stress of the pandemic so far. As a nation and even the world we are all anxious to resume our normal lives and our children are feeling the uneasiness no matter how much we attempt to hide it from them. I know that most of the kids will be okay because young people are quite flexible, but it’s up to each and everyone of us to communicate with them and be certain that their fears and disappointments are being addressed. Perhaps this is a great opportunity to slow things down for them instead of attempting to keep all of those appointments that they might otherwise have had. I think we all have to be good to ourselves and everyone around us. Self care is not just for adults. Children and teens need it as well.

I know how uncertain all of this is. It is not possible for everyone to have special classrooms in their houses or even to keep children home for schooling. We long to get our young people back to a semblance of normalcy but normal may look very different for a time. Be patient with the teachers. They are already exhausted from learning new ways of delivering lessons and planning them for them. They have an infinite number of worries for which they have designed plans B through Z. Their world is as upside down as yours with changes happening continually in real time. They want the best for your children as much as you do. Be ready to support them as they travel through shark laden waters. 

We may be psychologically done with Covid-19 and but I fear that it is not yet done with us. Be ready to help in the effort to keep our nation’s students moving forward with as much positivity as possible. Stay optimistic even if it is just an act. We’ve got this but it may end up looking a bit strange. That is alright. Flexibility is as important to learn as the three Rs. This our the modern day school house one way or another for now.

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