Apparently, at 7 a.m. the high school janitor was hard at work because those halogen lights were already beaming above our heads as my wife and I said our “have a good day” and headed toward our perspective classes. I walked into my dark room, turned on the lights, and after making myself a cup of coffee, positioned myself in my captain’s chair in front of the black mirror of my computer screen.
I turned on the computer and commenced recording videos and preparing for my lessons. At 8:15, I began class as the faces of 30 or so students emerged from the blackness of a Google Meet live screen. In the quiet of my room, in front of a field of empty desks, I lectured, I talked, and I assigned. Then I sat back as each student disappeared from my screen returning to his or her real worlds. I continued to stay online and answer questions via email, as well as grade online essays and quizzes. After a while, I realized that I had not truly seen a person in over two hours.
I stood and opened the door of my classroom and walked out into what felt like the fresh air of the hallway. It was empty, but I could hear muffled voices of intention, so I walked down the wing of our English Department. I could hear Mrs. McWilliams adamantly discussing sentence structure through her door. I could also hear Mr. Goodin’s good-hearted voice speaking Spanish. At the end of the hall, a door was open and I could hear another teacher elaborating on some other topic of literary requisite.
However, as I slowly walked through the vacant halls, I peered into the classrooms where all this was going on. There sat teacher after teacher immersed in some enthusiastic repertoire -but every desk was empty.
How odd it felt to see and hear teachers teaching and exhibiting their passionate performances with no one sitting in their classrooms. I decided to walk through the rest of the building.
I walked past the History Department, the Science Department, even . . .the Math Department. Some doors were closed and some were open, however, they were all full of the lonely sound of teaching in empty classrooms. I felt like an explorer in an odd reality. Which honestly is sometimes my favorite reality.
Comparatively, Picasso once said, “Computers are useless. They only give you answers.” Well I think we have evolved past his perception of what is useless. While I would love my students to be physically present, they are being subject to a remarkable improvisation that transcends just “answers.” There is an interaction and intention, albeit virtual, that exceeds the spattering of assignments on websites and looking for answers.
I miss the classroom, the real classroom, but I have enjoyed interacting with my students online more than anything I have done in a while. I will take this strange reality. While it doesn’t feel normal, it feels good to be teaching again.
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.