A Message From the Teacher on the Other Side of the Screen

A Message From the Teacher on the Other Side of the Screen | Twin Cities Mom CollectiveTo All the Distance Learning Parents at Home,

You’ve been asked to do it all. Your job. Your children. Your partner. Your family. Your dishes. Your dog. Your health. Your community’s health. And now your children’s schooling. Everyone is calling for you at once. 

It feels like the weight of the whole world is on your shoulders, because during a pandemic, when what you do matters more than ever, it sort of is. And some days you feel that weight more than others. 

Some days you ride the waves of success and lay your head on your pillow feeling exhausted, yet proud. The rest of the days you melt. And cry. And fall apart. And your toddler asks you, “Mama, you ‘a ‘tay?” and through tears you wrap him in your arms because you need a hug and you remember you can’t get hugs from many people during this time, so these tiny arm hugs are all the more meaningful. 

No, mama not ‘a ‘tay, you think to yourself.

But it will be okay. 

And now your kids are restarting school in a brand new way. But this time, the bus rides have been taken away. The lunches with friends have been taken away. Kickball at recess with their new buddy has been taken away. Spring sports and school dances are no longer. Normalcy and routine have all but vanished. Projects with your classmates and going up to the teacher’s desk for help is a thing of the past. One day your children went to school and didn’t know they probably wouldn’t be going back this year. There were no end of year hugs and pictures with their teachers. No trips to get ice cream with classmates to celebrate. 

Passwords and new accounts and confusing technology have now taken their place. Oh my word, how many accounts do we need to set up for one child!? Ordering printers and school supplies are now on your mind. Borrowed computers and upgraded wifi that really only works sometimes. Creating new desk spaces and workspaces for everyone in your family and yourself, squeezing them into whatever tiny corner you can find. There! Your new classroom is now that little spot at the bottom of the stairs that used to house absolutely nothing because it never seemed like a spot for anything. But now it is your school. 

And what you don’t realize at first is that that little spot in the nowhere corner of your house will become a special, sacred spot for your child. That is where, amongst the stress of trying something new, they will feel a bit of peace at seeing their teachers and friends on that screen. That is where they will try new things, sometimes hard, and ask their teacher questions and see their classmate’s faces. It’s also the spot that they’ll sometimes forget about because they’re too busy watching TV upstairs to remember they have a class to go to downstairs. That will happen. 

All the while, at any moment your own hand is removing a choking hazard from the baby and the other hand logging your other kid into their school account while you keep a steady, tired face on the video conference call before you for your own job, pretending you heard the question just asked of you by So And So Mrs. Important on the screen. Many of you nursing your little ones as you bravely do your job from your dining room table. Your job is very important, but everything around you is also an important job these days. There are no lunch breaks or bathroom breaks like you are used to having at work.

But, you are doing all of this and in some ways, it might be working, but only because having something work these days means you’re pretty much just getting by. You wake up, give it your broken and brave all, go to sleep and try it again the next day. 

I know how all of this goes, because I am doing it too. I am the teacher on the other side of your child’s screen and I’ve experienced each of those scenarios. I am the teacher missing your children so terribly it hurts. I am the teacher, just like your own child’s teacher, that has spent her quiet hours with tears in her eyes, sometimes crying big, long cries because I didn’t get to give them a hug goodbye. With arms full of my own children at home, finding those creative work spaces and falling apart in the least expected moments.

I am worried and scared, like you. And just like you’re doing with your jobs, I am somehow finding the energy, or maybe just willpower, to do it the best I can in these new and strange times. I’m the teacher on the other side of the screen, feeling guilty about asking you to help do with your child at home as I so wish I could be doing with them at school again. All those parts of teaching that I love, I’m asking of you each day.

I may be the face on the other side of the annoying screen, or the hand behind the endless emails, and the mind behind that ridiculous schedule your child now has, but together we are trying something new. And with new things come flexibility, especially during hard times. This is not a time to push each other’s limits. It’s a time to be kind and gentle and honest. 

And while it seems the world is already asking so much of you, I want to ask you one more thing. Will you please allow yourself some grace as you manage all of these things at home?  Please don’t feel like you need to get it all right, especially right away. Never has there been a time in my life when I’ve worked so hard and gotten such small results at the end of the day. Maybe you feel that way too.

The truth is, it’s okay if you mess up. Or if your child sometimes forgets to “go to school” or you may overlook an important email from your child’s teacher. We’re all on the other side of the screen feeling the exact same way. Overwhelmed is a feeling for all of us right now. I’m not saying abandon the whole distance learning thing, but I am saying something can be done if it’s not going well. Let’s try to follow with your children’s lead, not our own grown up fears.

So, please, let us know if their new school schedule feels like too much. Let us know if the assignments don’t feel possible, or the logins are confusing or your internet just isn’t working anymore or if you are sick, or just sick and tired of it all. Let us know how you are doing so we can make distance learning work better for you, not harder for you. That is what we are here for. Learning is not a one size fits all recipe and a pandemic is bringing that reality home. We know that and won’t stop working to make school possible for your your family. 

Maybe your child thrives in their new routine – I have one of those kids. But maybe your child fights you on all the newness. Maybe they need a midday walk with you rather than a math lesson on a screen or worksheet. Maybe today’s math needs to be counting trees or hugs or all the ways you love each other. Maybe there will be days you feel like you failed their schooling, but you met their heart’s needs. We support their little hearts and we care. We want what’s best for your kids and when you do that, it’s not failing, it’s nurturing the little ones we love and miss right now.

We’re with you in this. You’ve got this. We’ve got this. Hang in there. Just keep doing your best and we will do the same.

Sincerely,

The Teacher on the Other Side of the Screen

Maureen Zhao
Maureen is an educator and a mom to a sweet and wild seven year old named Leo and newborn named Remy. She and her family can be found digging in the dirt, seeking adventures outside, traveling, hunting down thrifty deals, visiting local museums and parks, discovering new global flavors at local restaurants, and looking for resourceful ways to be involved in their community together. Maureen is eager to connect with those around her regardless of where they come from and is passionate about raising a son who cares for the world around him. Both her and her family have a strong desire to be where the action is, yet yearn for the solace that is found when they're surrounded by nature. When not in the city where home and work is, they can often be found venturing north and setting up camp where the only thing they need to worry about is where to bike that day and where to find the best view of the sunset. You can follow Maureen and her family's daily adventures on Instagram {@maureenshealer}.

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