Joe goes back to teaching

I’m sitting at my daughter’s kitchen table as I write this.

Nine-year-old Gracie is typing on a computer with one finger. Her school district is not doing in-person instruction, although it is doing in-person football. Her mom and dad both work outside the home. Gracie and her brother have been doing online classes, at home, alone.

We’re here to provide support for the kids and comfort to the parents that their children are learning.

It’s Monday morning and Grace is sitting in a red t-shirt from the church Christmas play and pink flannel pajamas. Her legs are scrunched  up like a frog’s in the chair. She’s one-finger typing a piece of fiction. It’s a writing assessment. She was supposed to have it done last week.  Her first online meeting with her fourth grade teacher is 11 a.m.

Grace has an hour to get this done. In this she’s like her grammy. I can’t do anything unless I’m under a deadline.

Grace stops typing to pick a loose piece of skin off her finger.

I tell her she’s procrastinating. Teacher Joe gently tells her to get back to work.

She types a little, stops to ask how to spell some words and then we drift off into a discussion of when the wheel was invented.

I tell her she’s procrastinating. Joe gently gets her back to work. Click, click, click.

“What did they have at the cider mill back then?” she asks out of nowhere. Apparently the story takes place at a cider mill in 1914. There’s more discussion.

She’s procrastinating, again. Joe nudges her back to work. Click, click, click.

The typing stops. Grace points to the small chalkboard on the wall behind the kitchen table. “Mom never fixed that,” she says of the outdated menu.

Joe encourages her to go back to work. Click, click, click.

Joe goes into the living room to read the morning papers on his computer. He gets up after two minutes, wanders into the kitchen, and surreptitiously looks over Grace’s shoulder. 

He wanders into Charles’ room. The 11-year-old middle schooler had to be online for Spanish class at 7:50 this morning. At one point Charles has turned his computer screen to the ceiling. He is lying on his bed with his eyes closed listening to his teacher.

Joe nudges him out of bed and back in front of the computer.

Class is over and Charles announces he does not need to be online again until 9:30. He wants to play with the dog. Joe tells Charles he’ll take care of Ringer, and to go back to work.

Joe is outside and I can hear Charles stretching and moaning. He’s begun to work on another project and has five minutes before his next online class.

Grace finishes her story. She copies her work and sends it to her teacher.

She moves on to math work that should have been done Friday. There’s a lot of complaining about rounding numbers and the number of problems that must be done. I’m no help. I don’t know how to patiently explain rounding numbers. Joe and the bouncy dog come back in.

We’re all talking at once. I tell Joe to help Grace. Grace is complaining. Joe is explaining rounding. The dog is barking.

It’s 9:30. Charles comes out of his room and warns us to be quiet. He’s in class.

This is education in the time of covid.