Well, tomorrow is the first day of school (this column was written Tuesday). Teachers have spent most of today putting last minute touches on their virtual classrooms (I put a blue lamp up in mine), as well as meeting with administrators. While walking through these revered halls, on the day before over 900 students should be bustling through them, there is a defining air of excitement as we enter into the unknown. Even as I write this, I am staring into the eye of an online camera perched ominously on my desk. I think I will call him Hal.
Interestingly, concerning our anomalous situation, one board member aptly stated that we are writing a book that has never before been written. When presented like that, the circumstance taps into my adventurous side. I just need to let go of my robot brain enough to let the story unfold.
Comparatively, one of my first assignments is for my students to write a personal essay-in a way, a story of their own. As they write, I pose several questions they need to answer while introducing themselves. I ask about their plans after high school, what kind of hobbies they enjoy, and if they like Batman or Superman best…important questions.
However, this year I added an extra question at the end of the assignment. I asked them how they have dealt with the Coronavirus. I purposely did not ask them how they felt about it, rather how they dealt with it in hopes of incurring some story, some milieu that might inspire them to write and others to read.
For better or worse, this is a momentous time. Even without my prompting, students will remember the time they started the school year on a computer. Personally, I have always feared that the eventual evolution of education would be online. Though, in my imagination, I thought it would be years more into a Bradbury future. However, as circumstance would have it, that future is tomorrow.
We know that in-person teaching is better, but I wonder, how much of what we are doing will sooner or later be accepted as the norm. Is this the first unintended step in that direction? Will that personal touch be sacrificed to eventual convenience or every malady that percolates into our livelihood? I hope not.
Instead, I hope that this will teach us to be stronger, smarter, and less afraid. I ponder this as I go to turn my camera off. I have been practicing all day with videos and live feed. As I reach over, I hear an ill-omened voice in the back of my mind, “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that Dave…”
Indeed, once the door is opened, can it ever be closed?
Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at CHS. He can be contacted at Theteachersdesk.firstname.lastname@example.org.