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  • Writer's pictureRachel Terlop

Distance Learning

I've sat in my home for two weeks mourning the sudden end of the school year. As the child of a health teacher, there was no surprise when she told me to check to see where I was on my stages of grief.

Shock: Our year? Done? Are you kidding me?! There is no possible way...

Denial: THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY. We have too much to do. We literally left our recycled animals covered in glue on my table. We'll go back in a few weeks when this dies down.

Anger: Can everyone just STAY HOME so I can go back to work? We're in 1st grade. We have TOO MUCH to DO. We're just not done with the year.

Bargaining: I can still do cool stuff from home. Update website, record videos, make GooseChases... can we do one of those drive by parades and wave? Is there any way I can get into school to get my stuff.. some stuff... the plants?!

Depression: ...

Testing: ...

Acceptance: ...

I want to say that on the night before we start our professional development for distance learning, I am moving from depression into testing. Testing to see what great things we can do, and trying out realistic solutions. I want to say this.

But I miss the room, our version of controlled chaos, the important talks, the shoe tying, the breakfast mess, creating with tiny humans, and watching as their brains exploded with knowledge.

I love this class. They are so wildly different from any class I have ever had. They're introverted, and independent. When you go up to them for 1 on 1 conferences in reading or writing and ask, "What are you working on today as a reader? As a writer?"

You will most likely get a response like, "I am working on the chunky monkey skill of breaking apart a word into smaller pieces so I can read it."

They're six. And seven. And they're so cool.

We do yoga together, and sing the good morning song, and make sculptures out of aluminum foil to show what we learned in math. We had translation headphones so we can understand our friends when they want to communicate in Spanish, or Telugu. We were working on research reports, and just learning about how to use the internet to learn from videos. The first day of school cancelled was a publishing party day - I had ring pops, leis, and bubbles for us to blow instead of clapping for our friends. We were going to choose our lei based on the skill we worked hardest on. Red was for punctuation. Orange was for stretching out words to write all the sounds. Yellow was for remembering capital letters other than the word 'I." We had stuff to do, and to celebrate.

WE WERE READING. Oh my gosh, if you've ever been a teacher you KNOW the importance of first grade and learning to read. We were doing it. You have never seen a group of kids so intent on reading, and writing about their reading, and TALKING about their reading. I couldn't take enough post-its from the storage room at school - they annotated everything. They were annotating my lesson PowerPoints - I am not kidding. In the middle of my lesson they would stand up and come put their post it on the board because "that part is important to remember." They are brilliant.

I miss them. I love my husband, and having time to spend together like this has never happened in the 10 years of our relationship. But he isn't them. He isn't screaming about bugs, or drawing on the table, and he's not asking me to play or read with him. And I'm sad. I am sad every single day, because I love my job, and I love going to school.

As sad as I am though, I know I have been testing. Testing what materials and lessons I can compile, testing ways for us to communicate (Dojo, Zoom, Blackboard, Google, the phone, Facetime), testing scavenger hunts, testing my hand at recording mini-lessons in under 4 minutes, testing my community to see who can lend their voice or expertise. I'm testing myself to see what I can do with this obstacle.

I wonder if I will ever accept that I will not go back into my classroom in the 2019-20 school year, or we will never have our Octopuses that Stick Together circle time again. Once this has passed, I know I will test until I find a way for all of us to get together in the same space again - because thats what teachers do. Teachers never settle.

So tomorrow morning, I will wake up and join my online faculty meeting and I will hear what our district has planned for us. And I will start testing again, so we can find a way to continue to grow - even while we are apart.

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