“Mrs. Yael, I really miss you and everyone at school.” Her words echo around the empty classroom in my heart. It has been nine whole weeks since I have been with my class. The joy I have in seeing these precious kiddos online is matched by the nagging ache of it not being in person. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the technology that allows us to see each other and interact in real time, albeit with glitches. The WiFi is strong, but its will is weak. Boom, they’re frozen. I’ve been kicked out. Great, I’m back! What did you last hear? What face was I making when you saw me frozen? Haha, ok, so as I was saying...
Every so often, I try to unmute them all to mimic the life you feel in a classroom full of six-year-olds. I see they are listening and participating, so I give it a shot. But the tech doesn’t lend to it. It does exactly as it should, and amplifies everything. You hear it all, the shuffling, the siblings in the other room, the kitty whose voice I now recognize. (Hey, Squiggy! How are you doing?) I resign myself to shutting their voices off, again. I mean, yeah, this button would be great in real life, wouldn’t it? Mute All, Do Your Thang, Unmute Student Three. Click! How much more clean and efficient would teaching be? How many issues could be avoided? Literally, no one could interrupt each other. Classroom management at my fingertips.
I joke about it. Mute All. Great stuff, right?
No, I would hate it. I hate it now. The tech is great, but that wall between us is not. It’s either too busy and loud, or too dead and quiet. I feel like I’m rattling off a soliloquy to the digital heavens, hoping that my words are heard... by someone... anyone.
These kids are great. They relentlessly fill the space with their life, their love, frustrations, and wishes. It doesn’t matter how small that moment is that the tech allows. They’ll burst right out of it and show themselves. We share in their presence, their effervescence, and hang on, they were even listening? Learning? Yeah, that’s the answer! Yes, I can answer your question! My speeches on Adjectives, Capacity, and Invertebrates were not delivered in vain…
Another day rolls by, another monologue begins. Their interjections are silenced by the paradoxical beauty-and-the-beast of communication. The lecture continues, and I check on those little windows to their worlds, each rectangle a silent film I would like to take in, but can’t. The orator must go on.
Sometimes I run on the sound of those sweet good mornings, their innocent stories, and extremely random statements. Childhood at its best. Other times, it’s coffee and the raw hope of seeing them again. None of this is easy for anyone, parents or educators, and I’m both. Don’t worry, I don’t need a lesson in gratitude. I could make a long list of how lucky and privileged we are – and we really are. But it’s ok to feel both joy and sadness, gratitude and frustration, and as I look around and talk to others, I see that many of us do.
As thankful as I am for the tech, for the privilege of safety that we have, for those gorgeous little faces… I mourn. I mourn the field trip we never took, the Bike Week we never had, the Sports Day that never happened. I mourn that project we never finished, the time we would have spent together. I mourn what this year could have been. I wanted to give so much more.
I log on again and give what I can. I enjoy what we have, one way to see each other. I honor the fact that I still mourn. But at least I know I’m not alone…
I really miss you too.