I cannot believe it has been over a year: one year since my classroom has been full of fourth graders, one year since I’ve heard yelling and playing on the playground, one year since our classrooms were shuttered and one YEAR of this online school shenanigans. But, the day has finally come! In honor of my second vaccine, and our first day of in-person learning on April 5, here is what I have missed the most about being in-person/ the old ways, three hundred and sixty-five days later, and in no particular order.
Obviously I miss the kids. I miss laughing and having impromptu conversations walking in line from lunch. I miss making kids tie my shoes, or having kids sprawled on the classroom floor working together. I miss kids rifling through the class books, searching for which ones they want to take home. I miss the rare but perfect moments when a hush would fall over the classroom and a few of the kids would look at me because it was so quiet, and we would just smile and point at each other about how everyone was working! I miss our tiny little classroom community.
I miss lunch with my coworkers.
I miss the whole staff gathered in one place. There are new teachers that have joined our team this year, and I wouldn’t know them if I ran into them on the street.
I miss being able to easily make kids talk in small groups. I want everyone to be physically present so no one can blame technology. It is beyond aggravating to put kids in virtual break out rooms, and then to pop in to check on them and realize that one kid somehow got lost along the way and has signed out or can’t sign in, two have cameras off and are not talking, and one is sitting there not knowing what to do.
I miss having kids answer questions in a timely fashion. Now, I ask a question and sit there and wonder if a) are they even there since their camera is off or b) is it just their microphone taking forever to unmute? I miss the back and forth of real-time, in-person conversation. One of the questions on my mind constantly is finding the balance of calling on students who don’t respond or don’t appear to be there, vs engaging with the students who are present and participating. It feels like a waste of everyone’s time calling on students who don’t respond, but I don’t want to give up on them either. My default has been to call on three off-camera students in the hopes that one will answer.
I miss giving kids an assignment and having them turn something in!!! I assign work and sometimes it feels like it floats off into the void, never to be seen again.
I miss taking attendance the old-fashioned way. Currently, we are supposed to count kids as “attending” if they are in class 51% of the day. With our 4th grade academy model, which functions like middle school where kids move from class to class and I teach three section of reading, taking attendance involves messaging 4 teachers a day to account for all my kids in all of their classes. And then, kids sign in and out all day long, or some kids sign in and never respond to any of my questions or do any work. Do they count as attending? These are the questions I have to ask myself everyday after school instead of taking 30 seconds to scan the room in the morning and send off my attendance.
I miss talking to parents less, as much as I have also enjoyed getting to know families more. I am exhausted from contacting parents to get their kids to come to class and complete their work, and from trying to solve technology issues. It seems that the computers have decided that they too are over online learning, so I have been fielding multiple messages from families trying to figure out what is wrong with their computer, and then relaying the process for obtaining a new one. I will also go through periods of time where I message families in the middle of class if the students haven’t signed on yet, to see if I can get them to sign in late. We also have to contact families when students are missing work, which always feels awful because many families, I’m sure, are doing their best and getting tired of hearing that their child is missing yet another assignment. I miss being in charge of the work from the point of assignment to completion, and being able to use motivators and social pressure to get kids to do their work.
I miss being able to walk around the room and get kids to re-focus easily. Keeping kids on task virtually is a whole other can of worms. We have an app called GoGuardian, where we can see the screens of each of our students, and set up “Scenes” to block certain websites. This is how I can depressingly see that when I ask students to sign off and read one of their assigned e-books, most of them try to go to Youtube (which is blocked) or just leave their computer stuck on the homepage of our classroom. I can close their tabs for them when they are playing math games instead of reading, and I can message them to ask them to sign back in, but again, this brings up the gnawing question. How much time do I spend trying to get some kids to engage when it comes at the expense of the students who are actually in class, ready to learn?
Finally, I miss moving my body. I don’t even want to know how many steps I have not been taking, and I get FREEZING COLD sitting in the same spot for three hours straight. I miss moving around the room to constantly monitor kids, or walking across the whole entire school to heat up my lunch or go to the bathroom. I even miss being outside, on nice days, for recess duty, and taking the time to stretch my legs.
I love my job, and I have learned SO much from this time online (read about it here) but I cannot wait to get back in the classroom tomorrow!!