Well, one thing is for sure. I am not a virtual teacher. I detest this. I loath this. And it isn’t because of the kids. They have been incredibly patient and positive and truthfully better behaved and engaged than in a normal classroom setting. I hate this process because I cannot see all of their faces at once. I cannot look over their work and make the minor corrections or give the praise in real time. I cannot immediately tell if they get it or not. I cannot put a hand on a shoulder or ask if everything is ok. And I cannot look directly into their eyes because most of the time they are looking down at the screen at my face.
When I became a teacher, not once did I think that virtual school was going to be in my future. I became a teacher in order to avoid sitting in front of a computer screen all day. I became a teacher to avoid sitting all day. I have Alene Harris constantly running through my head, “A teacher on her feet is worth twelve in her seat.” Now I am sitting for hours at a time, staring at a screen that makes my eyeballs burn.
When I chose this job, I wanted to be with kids, interact with kids, be impacted by kids. And I wanted to make a difference. Thankfully, I got to know my current kids in a classroom setting and can now continue to foster our relationships through a screen, but it still isn’t the same. I miss them. I miss the smell and feel of my classroom. I miss the toys on my desk and the white boards. I even miss my not-so-smart Smart board projector. I miss the feel of the horrible falling-apart desks and the wall of windows that my 11th graders always opened immediately to flush out the smell of 9th grade. I miss walking down the halls and hearing my colleagues teaching. I miss the flex space and our STUCO room. I miss seeing Vice in the STUCO room when he probably should be in someone’s class. I miss Mr. Davidson or Mr. Williams coming in for a visit because we all have 4th block planning and can’t be bothered to get to work right away. I miss the horrible copy machine that always takes three times as long as the one in the states. I miss walking into my room after having another teacher’s class in it and scrambling to find everything for the next lesson. I miss saying buen día in the hallways. I miss Luana flying in an speaking to me in rapid Spanish while I slowly process a response. I miss the sigh of relief when planning time hits at 4A after an entire day of teaching. I miss sitting in the courtyard at lunch with my friends discussing the kids because let’s face it, we are always teachers and our kids are our main subject. I miss putting a grade in the grade book and having five students running asking to see what they did wrong. I miss the occasional appearance of a student who has graduated. I miss the noise of elementary as they walk down the halls, their little squeaky laughter ringing. I miss the singing of the pre-k and nursery students as they hold tight to their rings in a scraggly line. I miss the heat of some classrooms and chill of others, depending on who gets to control the thermostat. I miss the horrible music choices of Mr. Dingley as he fist pumps and head bumps his way through every planning in the teacher’s work room. I miss cheek kisses and hugs. I miss saying good morning to Helene. I miss the awkward student trying to avoid eye-contact when they realise we are the only ones in the hall. And I miss adding to the awkwardness by saying their name and adding, “how are you this fine day,” while watching their eyes get huge as they fumble through an answer. I miss hearing Spanish and English and mostly a mixture of both in the same sentence during break time. I miss the smell of toasties from the cafeteria. I miss clocking in and clocking out. And God help me, I miss hearing my name fifty times a day.
I get it. I still am a teacher. My students are still learning. Even through a screen, we are still connecting and engaging. And there are some great positives. For example, there are no classroom pressures so students who tend to fall through the cracks are shining on this platform. They can give an answer or type an opinion during discussion and really show their knowledge and understanding. That’s really neat to see. And I watch as students help each other and answer each other’s questions on the chat while I am teaching. That is pretty cool. And my colleagues are all being really awesome and positive and silly on our group chat. That is really nice.
But I still don’t feel like myself. I get in front of the computer and put on the face, but underneath I am screaming, “Just let me be with my kids! Just let me be a real teacher, in a classroom, with marker stains on my hands.” At the end of the day, I am more tired from pretending than the actual work. And at the end of the day I just cannot believe that this is my kid’s reality right now. This will be over soon and we will go back to our actual school at some point. But the time of virtual school during a world-wide virus will always be a part of my kid’s memories about high school. And right now, that makes me very very sad.