This is a huge week for students, educators and parents as schools reopen in a myriad of forms. Even those who don’t have children in school systems or colleges can feel the collective holding of breath. And it doesn’t matter if classes are being held online or in-person, things are different in ways that, a year ago, we could not have imagined.
Like most educators, I’ve spent the summer preparing. I’ve expanded my vocabulary to include terms like “asynchronous” and “hybrid,” learning the differences between online discussions, journals, modules, assignments, files and pages. I’ve recorded and uploaded “lectures” at my house, a friend’s house, on my backyard patio and in my beloved woods, attempting to be as approachable and inviting on a screen as I know I can be in person, in spite of the technology and URLs separating me from the students I love.
I’ve been alternately happy with my progress and frustrated by the fact that sometimes it takes three hours just to figure out how to say good morning. I laugh and shake my head when I hear news reports that a school suddenly decides to go online, as if mysterious teacher-fairies swoop down with their magic wands to make that happen. It’s way more complicated than that.
Once in a while, I close my eyes and remember the days when I simply walked into a classroom to exposed faces, all of us ready to experience the magic and synchronicity awaiting us there. But it doesn’t do anyone any good to hang out in that wistful space too long.
In a recent episode of This American Life about education entitled “Long- Awaited Asteroid Finally Hits Earth,” Ira Glass said, “… it feels like the whole summer has been an all-nighter preparing for a test that we’re having this fall and lots of parents and educators are feeling very shaky about how the test is going to go.”
As we all MacGyver our way through the first weeks and months, what I want to say most of all is this: let’s all remember to show one another grace. And let’s not forget to extend that same grace to ourselves.
When students feel frustrated or uncertain, remember that many of them have been under an incredible amount of stress these past months. Some have missed out on milestones they’ve waited for, perhaps all their lives, and are missing their friends and the predictability of the way things used to be.
When teachers are exasperated by technologies or seem exhausted by the two-dimensional world of teaching through a screen, remember that most of them went into teaching because they genuinely care about their students and are finding it difficult to inspire in the Land of Oz.
When parents seem frazzled or at their wits’ end, remember that most of them never set out to be homeschoolers and are trying to figure out how to work and feed their families and pay their rents and mortgages and teach their kids, all at the same time.
In these extraordinary times, when so many of us feel like we’re all on individual islands, let’s remember that we are not alone. Let’s agree to keep talking, to keep trying, to keep learning and growing. Let’s show kindness and extend grace and remember to breathe.
Through it all, let’s keep communicating, best as we can, using whatever tools are ours to use. Let’s ask questions and listen for real answers. Let’s extend to one another our virtual hearts and hands.
Eileen Button teaches Communication at Mott Community College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.