Umpteen days ago was my first meet-and-greet with my new students. Of course, it was more than simple introductions, intense eye-contact and masked smiles. We had information to give to families, such as language arts and math booklets and the all-important Chromebook.
Similar to a drive-through at a fast food restaurant, families cruised through a line of idling cars. Teachers trotted over for a quick hello, and to hand off the goods.
I met them!
I know this was not the right way to start a school year. These greetings, very brief, sent me home on a high. These are my kids. My new class. We are going to do amazing things this year, or at least as close to amazing as is possible through WiFi. In the planning stages of a new year, it seems like you’re thinking about your new students all day long, and certainly the first thing when you awake. To meet my companions on this adventure made it all very real.
Of course, my new students were wearing masks, sitting in their cars and partially obscured by car windows.
I saw their enthusiasm, and it was contagious.
When I drove home that day, I had one of those fleeting moments of panic. Will I be able to pull this off? Will my enthusiasm translate through the internet? I turned off the radio and talked to God, asking for the strength and wisdom that teaching in a pandemic will take.
And I began to cry, gratitude tears. Someone hired me for something really important. I had just met these beautiful little people who deserve every last drop of the best inside me. I won’t do anything perfectly, and I won’t be as organized or precise as the teachers with whom I am surrounded. But my 10-year-olds have a teacher who can’t wait to know them better.
That day I went to Costco, and I felt different. When I wandered around the hulk of a store I found myself saying hello to other shoppers, looking past their crazy cloth masks and giving them a sincere nod and a smile they couldn’t see.
By the time this column appears in print, our class will have been together two weeks.
We’ve had many amazing moments, but there were also the moments I wondered again if I had what this takes.
My children know this is rough; Their joy to be in a school environment is stronger than the bummer of facing a Chromebook all day while surrounded by their bedroom walls.
Yet, the mute buttons, pulses of internet reception, younger siblings who want to play, the loss of nonverbal teacher behavioral tricks — the learning curve is steep for us all.
One day I found myself in the middle of our school’s playing field, alone, asking for help and allowing my breath to reach into the smoky sky.
Nothing bad had happened. Yet, it was clear in my mind that Zoom was invented for busy adults who want to meet online for one hour.
Even with dance breaks, holding students through early afternoon left me feeling like a Chromebook that had not been plugged in the night before.
I stood on the green lawn, waiting for this moment to pass. If I can be as patient and kind as my students, we will find a way.
Then I saw my dragonflies, oblivious to the hazy sky, crisscrossing my peripheral vision. My totem insect reminded me that the exuberance of life and inner strength (from us all) will be just within view when they are needed.
I drive to Tehama County to use my classroom as a video studio. One day the internet was down.
Now I know how the kids feel. Sitting in your own living room all day in front of a computer is rough. Then I hit a computer snag.
“Let’s go tour my garden,” the teacher said. I pointed my lens at only the pretty spots in my yard, ate cherry tomatoes for my virtual students and picked a few grapes.
“I’m drying my raisins,” I told the students. “Someday we’ll all be in the classroom together, and I’ll share them with you.”