I thought I was prepared.
I had prepared for the possibility that my class might go to remote learning. Booklets were printed, an outline of a daily schedule was made. I had told myself that this time I would accept the limitations of online learning. This time would be different.
I had prepared my own children for the shutdown that was coming. They knew that eventually the sports they love to play would end, that they would not see their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for another year, that they would have to work online.
I thought it would be easier this time, that being prepared would make the transition to remote learning and isolation easier.
Unfortunately, there was also a secret voice hiding in the back of my mind. The voice told me that this time I would find a way to make online learning work. I was more experienced now, I could make it more personal, more engaging, more real. This time would be different. This time I wouldn’t fail.
Maybe there are just things that you can’t really prepare for.
I wasn’t prepared for the pit of anxiety that has formed in my stomach and keeps me company morning, afternoon and night. Anxiety about the mental, emotional and financial strain that remote learning is putting on the families of my students. Anxiety about the mental and emotional strain that this is putting on my family. And some generalized anxiety that is hanging around just because misery loves company.
I wasn’t prepared for the weight of hopelessness and helplessness that I feel watching my hopes for remote learning crumble into the reality of what teaching at a distance on a computer really means.
I should have been prepared for this. I have felt it before, but somehow I thought if I was ready enough, then it would feel less terrible to be a glorified workbook. Feel less terrible to not really be able to reach out, to teach, to connect.
It’s too much and it’s not enough. I feel too much and I’m not enough.
I feel no magic, no joy, no connection in trying to teach elementary school remotely.
But, I guess it must be there. As much as it feels impossible to find a different perspective in online learning. I really only have 2 choices. I can wallow in this painful emptiness until May 30 (hoping desperately that it isn’t extended beyond then), or I can find the magic, joy and connection that is somehow hidden inside of each and every day.
I’m not going to pretend that this doesn’t suck, but I also know that there are silver linings even in the darkest of clouds.
Instead of being painfully aware of what is missing from the Google Meets I will have tomorrow, I am going to try to be tuned in to the moments that make it worthwhile.
I can’t make it better, I can’t make the technology cooperate, I can’t make the Google Meets feel like a regular class, I can’t MAKE it anything. But, I can open myself to noticing the joyful grins, the moments of laughter, the ideas that are shared. I can notice who is there, instead of who is missing. I can notice what they share instead of the awkward silences.
I’m not saying that remote learning will be great. I’m just saying that it might feel better to feed that pit of anxiety with a little light.