Going the Distance: Cool Beans or Junky Java?

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“Hello, hello,hello….is anybody out there?” Pink Floyd had the right idea. It’s been much longer than I thought, but now it’s time to resurrect this blog. The beans are grinding, the water poured, and my freshly brewed views are steeping along with my umpteenth cup of java juice.So, where have I been? Let’s see, jumping back into teaching wasn’t quite as easy as getting back on my bike. OK, so I’m still having a staring contest with my Schwinn 🚲– but I AM going out for a ride. Right after I finish this post, have a coffee, prepare dinner, and set up my lesson plans for tomorrow. REALLY! Two college pickups, a small summer road trip (I know peeps, but it’s always summer in Florida), and I guess I just lost track of time. I need to shout out here to Mike and Connie – thanks for keeping the faith. Your emails made the difference.😍

So, the good news – I have a new home. A new work family that I adore, and I somehow found the perfect place to let my pedagogical insight do its best work. (Yeah yeah yeah – flaunting that old English degree) My admin is super supportive, the rest of my team – well, without being cliché, they’re a dream. The rapport amongst the staff at my school is unusual, and I am not leaving. Nope. I’m home. So now, back to MBB biz.

And the word of the day is “lockdown.” I remember when this meant that the stores locked down for the evening, and the mall was closed. Later lockdown meant the school was locked up because there was something unsavory and perhaps dangerous happening nearby. (Code Yellow now, because that’s not our biggest threat)And now, 2020, lockdown means the people are tucked away safe in their homes, the shops, streets, and avenues never venture to roam. And it isn’t just one small city block, town or state. It isn’t one county or country – the whole world is closed. Lockdown. Life as we know it has changed radically in less than a month.

So I cannot speak for the masses, but I can speak for myself. Let Morning Beans Blog be the first to tell you that as a teacher – this sucks! (sorry if that offends) Waking in the dark, fumbling through the AM ablutions, and drinking coffee on the almost morning drive to work now feels like a memory. Walking into the school courtyard, interacting with colleagues and students has become a past life experience. Now, the classroom, staff meeting, even my planning period is all online. While at first, I joked about the shortened commute and ability to hit snooze a few times, it is now looking like the new norm. And I think at first, some of my kiddies (I teach 2nd grade) liked the idea of wearing PJ bottoms with their school uniform top and learning online while sprawled across the couch, bed, or floor – well, the novelty has worn thin. And with it comes a bunch of big questions with no answers. Thank you, Corona (and man, do I wish that still meant the beer🍺)

My hubby says this is the new age of learning. People will now move towards working, learning, living at home lifestyle. I say NO WAY! This model can only work if you live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. The demographic at many schools across the world is one of the low socioeconomic backgrounds: parents working 2-3 jobs just to pay the rent, paycheck to paycheck. Many are immigrants and domestic workers. These families rely on the school not only to provide a haven and an education for their children but often meals as well. Nevermind the parents who are still working and cannot be responsible for their kids to be online learning, not playing video games. But we should just teach from home.

Classroom
With the onset of virtual instruction, will the brick and mortar classroom keep gathering dust?

I am lucky. My school has an administration that genuinely cares about the population. They found a way to get laptops to any family that needed one, and to find ways of attaining free or low-cost internet. We prepared together for three weeks of distance learning. We talked about making it effective and meaningful. And then the timeline grew, with no definitive end in sight. And so, my planning has had to be revamped. Let me tell you how it goes now.

The homeschool classroom
Can we really teach from the kitchen or the sofa?

So I live in a townhouse with a pretty open floor plan. I have a high schooler and a college kid home using the internet. Hubby already works from home. Now I join the fight for bandwidth – it’s not pretty folks. The kitchen, once my sanctuary for endless cups of coffee and quietude, has become the epicenter of my world. The counters where later in the day I prepare meals, serve as a place to prep my portable whiteboard, and create lesson props to help keep those little ones engaged. My personal and work lives are no longer separate entities but coexist in solitude. My planning takes place all the time, so I must try and get some air. Thank goodness for schizo dog – she makes sure I don’t atrophy on the kitchen stool. But even walking the neighborhood or going once a week for groceries- something is missing. Yes, you guessed it- people. Staff at the market are wearing protective gear – standing at the ready with sterilizing cleaners and paper towels to clean your cart. There are lines on the floor demarcating where we can stand, and if there are too many humans roaming the aisles, well folks, you are waiting outside, queued up and raring to get in for a container of milk and some desperately needed essentials. You know, wine, wine, some cheese, chocolate, coffee, and more wine…but I digress. I’m sorry, I just lack human interaction.

Alright, back to my class. I want my students to be responsible for their learning. It is something I begin teaching them back in August when school starts. I love watching as they gain independence as they cycle through seatwork and rotations. But now, the set has been changed, and I’m not done with Act II. It’s interesting to note how many of my parents are helping out. They stay in touch and help keep the kids on track for the most part. They are my leading role players in this new modern stage show. I suppose I am fortunate. I know that I am. I have a job I love and support from my administration and my student’s parents. But are we asking too much from parents who may be struggling to get by? And let’s talk about the kids.

“Hello, hello, hello, is anybody out there?” Again, that refrain. There are times when I sound like a Sprint commercial, “can you hear me now?” and times where I am blessed by the all powerful Mute All button. That is the one thing I would like to take back into the REAL classroom when this is all over. So where are the kids? What are they really doing? Hmmm, jury is out on this one.

We all know that children can sit for eons in front of a screen. Television, video games, even white noise if they must. But what about their wellbeing? We take them through the day (in my classroom, at least) with movement. We get up and rotate for centers. We have an impromptu game of Simon Says of a few moments of focus stretching and breathing. GoNoodle Brain Breaks and, of course, recess. I am still trying from behind a 13-inch screen to get the kids to move. I try and engage them with silly faces and maybe a joke or two. Sometimes, I feel like I am teaching zombies, and the rest of the time – these are my kids; the ones I have been nurturing since the fall, preparing for the future and investing in their individual learning needs. It’s a lot for them to deal with without the brick and mortar texts and teacher. I miss them.

And what about those books? Textbooks, workbooks, and plain old “read for the sake of reading” books? Let me rant here peeps. I am a bibliophile. I love books, especially old ones; the kind found in a second-hand shop that has been loved to worn edges and softened binding. The smell of a book – the ink on the shiny page is enough to make me giddy and scurry off to a cozy corner to immerse myself and get lost in some foreign land of lore. Oh, yes, there are books online. Epic, ReadingIQ, Kindle, Nook, even the library system have digital editions. I admit to allowing the kids in my class with no access to brick and mortar libraries to use those sites. After all, reading is fundamental. But in class, we have hard copies—a whole corner filled with books on every level. And now, when we are confined to our homes, my students keep telling me the thing they miss the most is our reading corner.

Reading Corner
You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax all you need is a book!” – Dr. Seuss

It may be the lure of the tent, the plush pillows, the way the sun filters into that corner through the shutters – but make no mistake – the kids in my class learn to love books. I am guilty of continuing to read aloud to the class at the end of our online day, in the tradition of our nondigital classroom. We will finish reading the second book in the Humphrey series, and maybe even the third one. I know I have a rapt audience for this part of the day. Perhaps it’s because they can relax once more, or they like the familiarity and comfort it brings home. I know that it feels right.

I hope that come June when the government says this will be over (or at least over enough for life to resume) that this will end. There will always be some who homeschool, but I think virtual learning has given us a weird glimpse into the future. Perhaps in the future, there will be only virtual schools – I’ve seen Ready Player One, Total Recall, and the like. I agree that it can be exciting, but I also feel that we are taking away a lot of the best parts of teaching. We are teaching today’s children how to remain literate and gain knowledge from digital sources, but we are also losing the sense of human touch. What happens to their socio-emotional health? Where are the psychological studies on this? And when will they look into it? This virtual learning is not one with any equity. Those who lack will always end up with the shortened end of the stick. But I also wonder- does this mean no more hurricane days? (think snow days for the tropics my Northern readers)

So I guess that’s it for now. I pulled out the stopper and plan to keep coming back weekly. I do hope you are still out there that you’ll join me for some morning beans and motivation. I’m about to start my weekend with an ARC from a fabulous author – but more about that later. Stay tuned.

Stay motivated and caffeinated😎☕

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5 Comments

  1. glad to see you are back and so enjoyed reading your works once again! CHEERS to the heroes of the pandemic…including teachers like you!

  2. I thought it was the Verizon man? I hated that dude!
    In his snarky red vest.

    So glad you’re back! We need some normalcy around here!
    Oh my god! The world has gone to pot if it’s depending on us for normalization!!! Help!!!

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