social distancing, virtual school

Back To School – Virtually

September means back to school. This year, back to school is different.

If you are a parent of school age kids, you spent the summer sifting through information about the options the school administrations were considering. You may have answered some surveys about those options. Then, events may have forced a whole new option. Did you see the video a comedian made as if they were a school administrator explaining a very complex rotating group in person and virtual learning plan? It was hilarious! I am sure it reflected many parent, teacher, and administrator experiences preparing for this school year.

My oldest is in college and is doing most of her classes from her apartment at college. One of her lab classes meets in-person every other week. She must pass a health screening and wear a mask to enter the lab. The college calls her roommates her primary pod and encouraged all students to create a trusted secondary pod. This year the football stadium will have life size fan cutouts in the stands. Will there be pre-recorded cheering for great plays and fabulous marching band shows? By the way, no tailgating is allowed by the town and the university. That is a culture shock.

The latest college twist is a mandatory random COVID test of a large sample group picked fresh each week. This is in addition to any students that are tested because they have symptoms. A popular topic among the college students is a guess as to when all in-person classes will switch to online. This is scheduled to happen at Thanksgiving break. Will it happen sooner?

I also have two kids in middle school. The district and school prepared to be online for the first marking period. There were surveys, meetings, emails, videos, laptop updates, software added, and the usual school supplies. Back to school outfit discussions only included tops. There were practice sessions with teachers on the new way to be in class and the new engagement tools. We made plans on where each kid would be for classes. I made sure each had a desk option. When the first day came, we were ready! The boys wore nice tops, comfortable shorts & pj bottoms, and had bare feet.

Photo by August de Richelieu on

They ‘attended’ the homeroom and declared this school method was the best. Yeah, that did not last. They had been out of school for 6 months. There was a lot of remembering to be done. Remembering how to use the computers for school work. Remembering the school learning pace. Remembering there were pop quizzes. Remembering what they learned last year. Remembering the new rules. Blur or attach a school approved background. How to ask questions. Keep your mic muted. Remember everyone in class is watching. One friend took a pic of one kid in class with the sibling across the room doing his own class. This is now considered a code of conduct violation. Remember this is new to the teachers too. One first class teacher waved at the class whenever a student clicked on the hand icon – the new way to raise your hand. Remembering this was new to the school district. Technical issues happened and needed to be reported and resolved. Remember not all teachers are in the school. Remember to listen to the lesson and not check out what your friends are wearing and doing. Remember to put away cell phones. Remember to listen to other students’ questions and the answers. 

Some new school features were quickly learned. The 10 minute break between classes is enough time to raid the kitchen for a snack or two or three. You can walk the laptop to Mom for some technical support. You can hold your cat during class. If you get super frustrated, you can take a walk around the house and come back. We’ll see if the teachers are really OK with this last one when the first grades are released.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on

We are in week 3 of middle school classes and week 5 of college classes now. We are all getting in the habit of this virtual learning. One boy does all classes at his desk, the other switches between a recliner and the kitchen table. I will attend a virtual back to school event through my middle schoolers’ laptops. New procedures, processes, and tips are given out as they are created to fill a new gap or fix a new problem. Are there frustrating situations? Yes, but normal school time has those too. 

Overall, a different kind of school year, but still school. I wonder how they will do school pictures…

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