Teaching from home Day 1: CT educator discusses challenges of virtual learning

Photo of Robert Walsh

Editor’s note: Robert Walsh is a middle school teacher in Fairfield County who is writing a daily account about virtual learning that launched this week in Connecticut schools, which have all been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s his recap of Monday:

Middle school teachers are used to chaos, but this past week has been particularly interesting. I’m lucky enough to teach in a terrific Fairfield County public school system with the resources to provide students and staff with what we need during this challenging time. Still, my colleagues and I spent the weekend glued to our screens while juggling the creation of digital lessons with concerned emails from students and parents. Amid the torrent of procedural directives from administrators and the avalanche of bad news regarding the impact of COVID-19, how could anyone think March Madness was canceled?

Most of us had very little time to prepare ourselves, much less our students, before circumstances forced schools to close. We scrambled to create new, targeted content for our students even as we waited to find out whether the state would allow us to deliver it. Teachers are notorious control freaks, so it’s the equivalent of being driven to the airport two hours before boarding or racing through rush hour on a flat tire to get to JFK before running out of gas. How one reaches one’s destination matters.

Today was a “soft opening” meant to ease our students into the new learning vehicles we’ve created for their transition to distance learning. It took me two full days to plan things out, cull through all the new procedures and resources, publish a working schedule for the week, and record my introduction for students and parents. All for a nine-minute video where my office lighting makes me look like some bloated possum in a novelty necktie. Worse, years of St. Patrick’s Day swag, along with my hand sanitizer and what was left of my sanity, is stuck at school.

What’s become clear in this “new normal” is that it’s impossible to replicate online all we do in the classroom. We learn to adapt and distill our lessons in an effort not to overwhelm, grappling with ourselves not to let perfect be the enemy of good. Like our students, we’re doing the best we can until we can do even better. Done properly, we’re ducks on a pond and no one can see how frantically we’re kicking underwater.

That said, I already miss the kids.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.