Eleven years... that's the amount of time I've spent in classrooms from middle grades to high school. I always joked with fellow teachers about how nice it would be to get to work from home. Sit around in my PJ's all day? Interact with students as needed? Become more of a facilitator than a "sage on the stage"? Sign this introvert up!
A little over 2 weeks ago I finally got my wish. However, it wasn't on my terms. It was someone else's. Like many other districts and states, COVID-19 has sent us scrambling to the safety of our homes with the hope that staying 6 feet or more away from others in society will help slow the rate of the virus and bring us all back together again.
For many, however, this seems to have raised more issues than it's solved. For example, what happens when you send a state full of teachers home only to ask them to continue reaching out to students and furthering their educational journeys? Even with an unlimited number of educational sites now offering free tools, tips, and tricks at our finger tips, we must also fight the battle of equity on an entirely new level. Let's not even for a minute consider the number of students who are now at home without any device or internet to connect them to the outside world, but what about the number of TEACHERS in the same situation? I've seen Twitter friends be quoted $7,000 to simply install a new internet line for a house that is only 500 feet away from another that already has their own set up. And what about those teachers who haven't learned technology simply because they've never really had to? Just because trials by fire work for some doesn't mean it works for others. It breaks my heart to think that there really might be some teachers leaving the workforce because of the amount of stress this new situation has put on us. (But I can't lie and say that I'm not at least a little excited by the prospect of more lessons now being enhanced by the technology people are being forced to use.)
On top of not having the devices or connections, we are also faced with the fact that many sites being used are now seeing unprecedented traffic which leads to failures and even shutting down for (hopefully) brief periods of time. Teachers are literally killing the internet in an effort to bring some semblance of normalcy to the lives of their students.
What has started as joke ("Man, wouldn't it be great to work from home?") has now very much become my reality. And even as someone as well versed in tech as I am (which is to say not nearly as much as others, but a little bit more than some), even I am feeling the fatigue. So my advice to teachers is this: it's not a joke. But let's find some joy in it anyways. Let's bring in the silly. Let's relax the rules a bit. The kids will get there with or without the structure of the classroom. You've done a fantastic job before, and you'll continue doing a fantastic job now. But remember that this is new territory for literally everyone. Even for those of us who've done blended learning and flipped classrooms for years now. Going 100% digital on all levels is not easily done. So don't feel bad if you feel woefully unprepared or if you aren't as strict as you would normally be. That's not what the kids need now anyways.
So in the midst of it all, just know it'll be ok. YOU'LL be ok. And in no time at all, we'll be back in our classrooms... and I'll be back to joking that I need to work from home.