Wednesday, September 2, 2020

First Day of School

 I am not what you call a whiz in technology. Everything is a challenge for me. I can usually puzzle it out, in time, but I ask a lot of questions.

Today was William's first day of school and for multiple reasons, it was decided that he would do his learning in a virtual classroom. Since his mother cannot afford internet at their house, he uses my wi-fi and my computer.

The first thing that made me nervous is that they didn't actually put the site up until this morning, the very first day of school. That did not give un-techy me a chance to familiarize myself with any of it. They offered a video, but that is not how I learn. I learn by doing it. My questions come when I run into a snag. Watching someone navigate and talk doesn't do a thing for me. I have no questions, because they know what they're doing. They make it look easy and I assume that it IS easy.

It NEVER is. 

This morning, we got up and the modules were there. We ate breakfast in front of the computer. William was excited to open his science module. There was an introduction to virtual learning. There was a "About Me Quiz" so that the teacher and student would get to know each other. We went on to the next class: Math. They had the exact same introduction to virtual learning. There was another "About Me Quiz". With the same questions as before. Language arts: The exact same introduction to virtual learning, the exact same "About Me Quiz". After struggling with the technology, (it makes a difference when you are at the side of the computer while your 'student' is in front of the screen), when we got to the questions, I showed William a new computer skill. Copying and pasting. We typed "These questions were answered for the science module." (Remember, in 4th grade, he has one instructor, not a different teacher for each subject). We did the same for the rest of the modules. William received an e-mail back from his teacher which said, "I know that you answered them for science, but you need to answer these questions for each module." 

E-mail shoots back from William's grandmother to the effect of 'Why? If you were in a classroom at the beginning of the year, you would introduce yourself, give the classroom rules, what is expected of the kids, etc. You would hand out a piece of paper with the quiz on it and say, "Let's get to know each other." The kids would fill out the papers and hand them in and you would say, "Wonderful. Let's take out our math books." When they went on to science, you would not hand that same paper out to them and said, "Let's get to know each other," and have them fill it out again. And  again for Social Studies. One more time for Health. And again with the same questions for Language Arts.' To require something of the virtual students that wouldn't make sense in a classroom is not logical. 

No response from the teacher. 

It's just silly. 

I had to speak to administration about the fact that I am unable to open the files for his PE class. I also could not download something called 'Audacity' but it turns out that he didn't need that. I wasted all that time to figure it out. I finished off the conversation with, "I don't want to sound like one of those difficult people, but there is something that I really am annoyed by." And I told her about the 7 separate (but identical) "About Me Quiz". She said immediately, "He doesn't need to do all of those. Just have him do one. That's all. He only has one teacher." I was a little gobsmacked. 

I hope to sweet Jesus this is not how the whole school year is going to be.


  1. Your descriptions illustrate why so many believe the virtual classroom is inadequate and kids need to be in school. My daughter and SIL are both teaching virtually for now (kindergarten and second grade) and use a packaged curriculum the state purchased for them. It leaves little room for the teacher to improvise. I suspect what William is doing is similar. The upside for William is he has you.

  2. Based on my brief exposure to some of these things in the spring, we decided to opt for the in person learning though we really didn't have much of a choice on that either. We decided that jumping through all the hoops, paperwork and still maybe getting denied wasn't worth it if the online learning was going to be cobbled together at the last minute. I certainly hope that things improve quickly with the online learning so when our schools here are shut down, and they will be, it is a bit better and the kinks have been worked out.

  3. It’s a tricky situation. I don’t think anyone disagrees with the fact students need to be in school. Guys like William are going to be fine because they have a parent or grandparent to assure they’re doing what needs to be done and questioning the ridiculous stuff. The tragedy is with the ones who don’t have that and may not have the technology needed for distance learning. They’re falling behind and that will have to be addressed. BUT we still have to do all we can to slow the spread of COVID. Unfortunately, and I hope I am wrong on this, once you get students back in school full time and we still don’t have a vaccine, we will see the numbers of cases rise. No easy answer.

  4. This is the second day of school and last night, the report came. A child has tested positive. I think we are doing the right thing. Quite interestingly, watching William has been interesting. He rushes through things sloppily, incorrectly. He spent a half hour coloring and labelling three areas on a map. He was not happy when I printed out the material and made him redo the work. He fidgets and stares off. If I sit beside him and direct him step by step, he can work just fine. We had a long discussion today about how he is actually using his body to distract his brain. We did his multiplication cards and it took forever because he fidgets, yawns, scratches, moves about. I repeated the exercise with him sitting in a chair at his desk. I had him fold his arms and sit up straight. He went through the cards in less than half the time. It was a good thing for him to realize. A big part of his home schooling is going to be focus. He was pretty peeved at me, but the thing that I learned about him is that he is perfectly capable of focusing. He just needs to learn to do that. While I was preparing his lunch, he did decide that I was right about the fidgeting.He had pondered the experiment we did and came to that conclusion on his own.

  5. Our teachers were given a week of student-free time to learn the technology and convert to online.

    We are very blessed that we moved Paris to a small non-state school. Friends relayed that the software that the state school used had all sorts of issues. Our school realised that online was better as an occasional tool and so sent home a pack of texts and exercises and sent through a daily workplan and we uploaded the work done each day via email.

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