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Columns Small Talk

Small Talk: Stars of the small screen

When I first heard about teaching via Zoom, it sounded simple — to my simple mind.

Instead of teaching to children sitting in front of you at their desks, you’d be teaching them sitting in front of you on their computer screen.

Clearly, I am not a classroom teacher. I forgot that, for starters, children don’t just sit quietly at their desks, giving you their complete attention, because … their children.

They wiggle, gaze off, fiddle with supplies, tie their shoes, untie their shoes and generally find a dozen reasons to wander off mentally and, sometimes, physically.

After I chatted with a few teachers, and stopped laughing, the cold truth is that trying to teach through a computer takes that restless norm to a crazy new level.

Think now. These kids are at home in their safe space. They know they can’t get sent to the principal’s office.

And they have a computer with lots of tricks and tools to use to gum up the works.

These youngsters are so computer savvy, they figured out how to sign into their classroom with a fake name, or using another student’s name, which is, essentially, hacking.

With that extra sign-in, they can get up to all sorts of hijinks anonymously. Then the sky’s the limit. They send nasty notes to the teacher, share their screen to block what’s on the teacher’s screen or just scribble over whatever is on the screen.

Even when they aren’t being actively naughty, they are at home, where in their mind, no one else is really looking at them. With their little faces up close and personal, there is nose picking. One decided to place a large pencil up his small nose.

In spite of “being in class,” there is the constant problem of failing to mute. At full volume, they holler for mom and feel free to eat, whatever and whenever, complete with slurping and crunching sound effects.

There is burping, dogs barking, doorbells ringing and arguments in the background, perfectly distracting the rest of the class.

And since they are at home, they can’t resist interrupting to introduce their dogs, cats and anything else that interests them, and putting their feet up in front of the screen.

I salute all teachers who are facing all this and still managing to get things accomplished. But hey, they’re teachers. Wrangling wiggling, distracted kids into learning is what they do best.

And the teachers told me these stories calmly, showing no real frustration or angst.

Some even mentioned loving the happy faces when they were reading to them. I’ve decided teachers are not just superstars. They are magicians, with a little sainthood thrown in, and I wish them endless fortitude.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who thinks teachers are our last link to normalcy. Contact her at [email protected].

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