March 2020 update: teaching during the Coronavirus pandemic

First off, all is well with me. I am in school today, my family is well. Anxiety and tension is high. Yesterday Brazil had 55 cases, today it’s over 150. A week and a half ago, we had under 5 cases. Every day is new and unexpected. My students keep asking for predictions, for answers. Let this be the first time they begin to learn this: your teachers don’t have all the answers.

As soon as the first case appeared in Brazil, my school started talking about possible futures. I appreciate how pro-active and clear they’ve been. Our communication as a school has been really good. A lot of daily emails, meetings multiple times a week to talk in person. It’s a lot, but I would prefer the over-communication over the alternative.

Last week, we started talking about what our teaching would look like if we had to go virtual. Our admin was in close communication with peer schools in China, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. Our main goal became learning from them. They had no one to turn to for advice, but they could help us prepare.

I’m taking an online course about digital/virtual/online teaching. That’s been really helpful. We’re preparing students by getting them all signed up different web platforms: Zoom, Flipgrid, Padlet.

There’s no chaos or panic. And yet, I feel like I’m working an extra job. I’m teaching face to face, and then I’m learning how to teach digitally. And I feel like a first year teacher again. I don’t know how the tools work, I don’t know how much to assign, how to present it, how to collect and assess. I’m learning and stumbling in all normal ways, but I haven’t felt like this since I started teaching.

So the main feeling I have is exhaustion. I’m supporting my students through this as well as dealing with my own emotions. My brain has so many pots on the stove, they are all boiling over a bit. I’m forgetful of little details.

But to reframe it, maybe those little details weren’t essential. Moments like this teach you what really matters.

I have to say that I am sad about the possibility of virtual teaching. I love spending time with my students each day. I love the one-on-one moments. I love the way they crack me up. That is going to be mostly lost online. Yes, we will find ways to check in and connect, but I can’t pretend it will be the same.

And, by sheer coincidence, we are moving to a new apartment today. This began a month ago! We started the process in January and now here we are. So, I go home after an exhausting day to pack more of our stuff and mop the floors of the new place. Luckily it’s in the same building, so it’s just an elevator ride away.

Beyond all of that, if school is closed, then my own 3 children will be at home and learning virtually as well. While I’m trying to run and manage an online classroom. Are you feeling queasy yet?

Add that the potential reality that we can’t go to public spaces because of social distancing.

Oh sweet baby Jesus. This is gonna be a great story we tell in the future.

For now, continued gratitude for my job, for my health, for the support of David, and the love of those little mess-makers of mine. We are strong and smart and resilient.

As of now, I don’t know if or when the school will close, but my bet is that we close. I’ll update here with more news at that point. And if you’re interested, I’ll be recording some read alouds for my students of novels and putting them on YouTube. If anyone finds themselves in a similar situation and would find that helpful or beneficial, help yourself.

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