Virtual school nightmare

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Looking back on the first week of virtual school, I can truthfully say our experience has been less than smooth. We have granddaughters in first and second grades, and to say it’s been a difficult week would be like saying Stone Mountain was a little piece of granite.

There have been daily tantrums and stomping around our basement classroom, the pulling out of one’s hair, and even fits of crying. Lots and lots of crying due to the frustration of not being able to understand the modern technology others seem to so easily comprehend. The stress has left us drained at the end of each day, not knowing how we will make it through the next.

But enough about me.

Let’s see if any of our difficulties are like the ones you and your children have faced in this week of virtual school.

First, I have to say our difficulties have not been due to any failing on the part of the teachers we’ve been in contact with. Teachers have been asked to do an impossible lift in this pandemic we all find ourselves in, and they have been unbelievable in their adaptations of the virtual classroom.

After meeting in a carpool line, the teachers gave us Chrome Book computers, bags of paper, notebooks, pencils, glue sticks, rulers, and a minute-by-minute schedule of the school day. We drove away with everything we needed for a successful year — except an understanding of how to use the programs preloaded on the Chrome Books.

Important note to frustrated home schooling readers out there: slamming the Chrome Book shut will not help you to understand the assignment just given your first- or second-grader. But it will prompt them to say, “Papa, you told us not to say those words.”

First, the minute-by-minute daily schedule doesn’t always work. Because of security reasons, users must log on twice, find their class, log on once again, and only then they can join the class. If your Chrome Book mic isn’t muted, it causes a loud feedback everyone can hear. And, I found out, if your mic isn’t muted everyone in the class can hear what you are saying about how impossible the minute-by minute schedule is to follow.

Second, schedules are different for each grade level. This, of course, isn’t a problem for parents with just one child, but for those of us with more than one, it makes the day extremely difficult. They have different log-in times for each class they take. Lunch times and recess aren’t at the same time either. Can’t send a first- or second-grader outside to play by themselves while we sit inside navigating the computer, now can we?

Third, even though not really “new” math: feedback, loss connection and frozen teachers do all add up to equal one big problem. One of the biggest problems with virtual school is everyone is doing it. The system gets overloaded and we get dropped, and sometimes the teacher’s screen freezes, or they disappear altogether.

It’s not their fault; the system just can’t handle all the traffic. Still, when it happens, the minute-by-minute schedule goes out the window, which puts even more pressure on everyone.

Fourth, simple assignments aren’t so simple if you don’t know how to use the programs. Little One’s second-grade teacher gave her an assignment to make a presentation all about stars. They could use any of the three programs that were loaded on their Chrome Books — all three of which Big Papa here didn’t have a clue how to use.

Luckily for us she gave the class one additional option. Students could draw pictures and then tell a story about each star. Since telling stories is something I’m good at, I provided a little advice (something else The Wife says I’m good at). Little One got a 100 on her stellar story about stars.

And finally, what’s the most important lesson we’ve learned by the end of this first week? It’s better to be here than there. Virtual school may be a difficult change for the very young and the not-so-young, but at least it’s survivable.

Seems at our granddaughters’ school, teachers have already gotten sick, and they are the only ones in the building. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them along with wishes for speedy recoveries.

Hopefully when you return, your students will soon, also. I know of a little first- and second-grader who are eagerly waiting for their morning teacher hugs.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]