Remote/Digital Learning · UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

One week down in the brave new world of distance learning

At the time I am writing this post, it’s the end of the first week of distance learning, Friday night of the first week of our emergency transition to online education.  While I won’t publish this post until well into May, when the world will, once again, be a whole new place, I thought it was important to capture this moment in time as a reference point, a piece of data, a place to reflect.

Above all else, I hurt.  My muscles, bones, and joints ache–the stress of this week has settled hard into my body.


I’ve been trying to explain to people, both former educator friends and non-educators alike, what this week was like.  I finally decided it was like a combination of the first day of school in any given year and the first week of school ever in one’s teaching career.  The stress and tension of this week was more than just the stomach-tingling nerves of the first day of school.  It was way more than that.

I haven’t felt this stupid, incompetent, and incapable for a very, very long time in my professional life.  I’m usually able to roll with things, to take what comes, to make it work, to think on my feet.  But this world of digital teaching has knocked me sideways.  I’ve used technology for years–I brought my old laptops into my classroom when I worked in a poor, urban setting.  When I started at my current affluent setting, I took advantage of ChromeBooks and apps and a digital integration specialist.

But knowing and using some technology or apps is not the same as teaching digitally.  I’ve used technology as a support, an option, a resource, not as the primary mode of instruction.  I’ve always been there, physically, with my kids to gauge the temperature of the room, to put out the fires when they were just sparks, to lay down some heavy with just a glance, to share a secret wink with a kid who needed to be seen in just that moment.

Gone.  All gone.

Instead, I can’t use the whiteboard in Zoom in my last instruction block because I transposed the digits of the meeting code and so nothing is playing on the screen.

What used to be quick exchanges with colleagues to solve a problem or ask a question are now hour-long meetings over Zoom.

I drain the battery on my phone AND my laptop at least once a day, sometimes twice.

I am told to “just use the waiting room feature in Zoom” to ensure that no one will Zoom-bomb my beloved kiddos, only to realize that I can’t ask a waiting participant to update their name until they are IN the Zoom session for me to have them rename themselves.

I can’t keep my kids safe.

I can’t anticipate issues and be ready to go.

This is hard.  This is exhausting.  This is draining.

I’ve used Educreations for years and I’m mostly okay, a few weeks in, with using Zoom.  But it turns out I can’t use Educreations with Zoom.  I don’t have a document camera at home (and they make me nauseous anyway).  Teaching math requires DOING math, not talking math.  It’s not the same as providing written feedback on a piece of text–the kids have to be able watch me do the math.  But if I can’t use Educreations and my Zoom code is transposed and my kids can’t see me and class is down to one 45-minute block a week, there is no time to spare to trouble-shoot yet-another crisis.

In one fell swoop, I have become an ineffective teacher.

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