DAVIS COLUMN: Viruses and the virtual classroom
Coronavirus went viral so my school went virtual.
We had about a week of Zoom training and a few days to do test runs with the kids. I spent the weekend preparing and couldn’t sleep that Sunday night. I felt like a first-year teacher all over again.
I wanted to set a tone of excitement and reduce anxiety, so I sent an email to all the students. We were going to be like the early explorers and early settlers that we had been studying all year. We were boldly going where no students had ever gone before, at least not at our school.
The Class of 2027 is a big-hearted bunch of kids. All year, I have bragged on the way they take care of each other. As we ventured into this brave new world of online learning, they took care of me. When I started my very first virtual class, my microphone was muted. I was teaching away, unaware. One of my little girls sent me a message right away, “Ms. Davis, you need to unmute yourself. Click on the microphone at the bottom left corner of your screen. It should turn green when it is working.” Thoughtful and thorough, and she’s only ten years old.
After our first week, I wanted to know what they thought about the “we are like the explorers” analogy. One little fellow said that we were like the settlers at Jamestown. We got off to a rocky start but were already doing better. A+ for him. They talked about missing the way things used to be and that the explorers probably felt the same. One boy said we were not like the early explorers because none of us were eating sawdust or rats. Clearly, he remembered his Magellan lesson.
I kept my Zoom training notes nearby. For whatever reason, you are supposed to hit “end meeting,” not “leave meeting.” Whether it’s virtual or in real life, I am not ready for my time with these children to end. I’m not ready for this group of kids to leave. It’s ironic because teachers are always counting down the days – to spring break, to the weekend, and finally to the end of the year. I assumed I would have a busy spring with these children – a spring full of field trips and colonial day celebrations and awards banquets and yearbook signings. I’ve been teaching a long time and have had lots of these moments. They already seem more precious to me, like something I should have cherished instead of eagerly marking off a calendar. The Corona quarantine reminds us how fragile it all is and how it can all be taken away in a flash.
So, like the brave explorers, my students and I will soldier on for as long as this journey needs to last. I will follow my new schedule and my new procedures for my new normal. I will be thankful to see each little face pop up on my MacBook screen. I will tell them I’m glad to see them, and I will mean it.
Corona has reminded me what an honor it is to be a child’s teacher. Corona validates that a teacher’s work is not just meaningful, but magnificent.
As I look at my cheat sheet to see if I end meeting or leave my meetings, I hope I remember that all of this is just temporary. Soon enough, I’ll be back in my classroom, and it will be loud, and I’ll have too many children trying to tell me too many things, and I will be wishing for that “mute all” feature. In the midst of the middle-school madness, I hope I will stop and think back on our quarantine days. I hope I will remember that time together is a precious and fragile thing and that schools are magical places.
Tammy Davis is a writer based in Columbia. She has never been prouder to be a teacher. You can find Davis on Instagram @tammydavisstories, or you can visit her website at www.tammydavisstories.com