Five long weeks ago, as an elementary art teacher, my days were filled with busy activity, kid hugs, near-constant noise and conversation, half-finished art projects stacked on every horizontal surface and an endless parade of students filling my classroom.
My days began by donning my fluorescent jacket and heading out for bus duty at 7:10 a.m. In March, the sun is just beginning to come up out there; waiting for the students to arrive offers a chance to revel in the beauty of the morning and fresh air.
Now, however, teaching is a whole different job. It’s quiet, it’s clutter free and it’s lonely.
The days don’t rush by at a break-neck pace. My days begin early, checking student assignments and adding positive comments.
Later there are virtual meetings with co-workers and administrators, and lunch-and-learn trainings. I have office hours when parents or students can contact me with questions, and the day ends with a last check for more turned-in work.
Rio Rancho Public Schools was assigning activities for students within days of the shutdown, but this week we began in earnest. Continuous learning is not optional now.
We’ve all had a chance to get up to speed with the technology, sort of. It’s been a challenge.
Our school has a smart and willing ed tech, and our instructional coach can answer just about any question I can dream up. Still, it’s a challenge. So much of this is new.
It’s new for the teachers. It’s new for the parents and the students.
Having a Chromebook and internet is just a small part of the puzzle.
Internet is cantankerous — Chromebooks have a mind of their own. Home devices range from phones to iPads to vintage desktops, each with their own continuous learning challenges.
Patience is the new buzzword, and I’ve seen a lot of it. Our administrators from Dr. Sue Cleveland down have encouraged us to take care of ourselves and our families.
Parents and students have been understanding while we work through these obstructions. Teachers have consulted and collaborated with their teams and Google, searching for answers.
We are all trying to make the best of a tricky situation. Everyone I’ve encountered has been kind.
We are all in this together. We all want this to work.
Donna Barnitz is the art teacher at Colinas del Norte Elementary in Rio Rancho. Public schools in New Mexico have been closed since March, with online instruction starting April 13.