A friend asked me how I was doing during this pandemic, and I thought I’d share my perspective as a teacher who has struggled to find my footing in our new reality…
How am I doing, you ask?
To be honest, not well. I’ve been a teacher for 40 years now, and I really love teaching. I love the interactions with my students, and colleagues. I loved teaching high school band for 10 years–I couldn’t believe I got paid to make music with kids–and I really get a thrill now out of helping my college students find their voices as musicians and teachers, and helping them to realize their dreams; whether that’s being a middle school chorus teacher, or an early childhood music teacher, or a freshly minted college professor.
But I didn’t go into teaching to invite students to a Zoom meeting, wear a pair of noise-canceling headphones, and talk through a mic to a Brady-Bunch-style laptop screen where my most frequent advice is to remind my students to “unmute” their microphones. It feels artificial, and stale, and impersonal. Few of my favorite teaching “moves” translate very well to online instruction–no one has figured out how to rehearse a band virtually, and I simultaneously kind of doubt they will, while hoping they won’t.
Because teaching isn’t about the mere transfer of information, like some sort of antiseptic banking transaction. The best teaching is messy, and loud, and unruly, and chaotic, and unpredictable.
And I really, really miss it.
So, not so well.
Now, if there is a silver lining in this situation, I dearly hope that everyone currently struggling with our temporary reality, juggling “homeschooling” (it’s not homeschooling–it’s emergency teaching) with working from home, and mostly failing, will somehow come to understand the real value of public education. That when done well, it’s about much more than just teaching and learning, and about a whole lot more than obsessively testing every student from kindergarten to graduate school, until we’ve beaten the very last drop of joy and wonder out of learning.
It’s about helping young persons become who they want to be, and indulging their inherent senses of curiosity, and creativity, and passion for learning.
It’s about building lifelong relationships between teachers and students, and among students themselves.
It’s about discovering things about the world around us, and in so doing discovering more about ourselves. And what makes us more human.
So…not very well.