What does the above rant have to do with education? Nothing. I just needed to explain why I hate that header image, but it's the only header image I could have possibly used considering the title and subject of this post.
I also would like to note that I will be using a bad language word in this post. Why? Because language exists for a reason and we're all adults here. Because I could beat around the bush and be clever with synonyms, but those don't carry the weight and impact I believe is needed to make my next statement land like it ought to. So if bad language words hurt your ear-eyes make like A Christmas Story and pretend it's another word.
We all good now? Cool.
Distance teaching is fucking hard, my friends. It's fuuuuucking hard. And even in a few weeks when it gets easier as everything settles into something resembling a groove, it's still gonna be fucking hard.
Teaching is never easy. Even the quote unquote best class in the world still isn't easy to teach. You could have 30 of the most wonderful "I wish I had 30 of her/him in my class" students and it would not matter. The year would be hard. There is too much going on, too much pressure, too many personalities and loads atop loads that must be carried for a teaching year to ever be easy. It's always hard. But, like Jimmy Dugan says, "The hard is what makes it great." I embrace the difficulty of the job because that challenge is what makes me better.
Distance teaching, though? That's fucking hard. Hardness, as we all know, is a scientific measure that increases exponentially (I think I'm using that word right, but I teach 4th grade math so who knows). There's "hard". And then there's "hard". And then there's "pretty hard". Next is "damn hard". Followed by "pretty damn hard". Then there's "...*whew*...I mean...mmm...this hard, man." And last is "fucking hard." I have heard tell of "pretty fucking hard" and " pretty fucking damn hard" levels, but those only exist in middle school because middle schoolers, through no fault of their own, are broken on a deeply hormonal level. Also also, if you made it through the entire preceding paragraph without giggling once at the repeated use of the word "hard" you are more adult than I will ever be.**
I am exactly one day into distance teaching. The second grader and kindergartener who live in my home are exactly one day into distance learning. Yes, I'm going to use both phrases because teachers are not distance learning. Put your hand down, I know "teachers are always learning" and "the best teachers learn from their students." You can stow the cliche pamphlet. Our job is distance teaching right now. Except for the districts and states actively trying to murder their teachers. They're still teaching teaching. Until an outbreak happens at their school. Then they're climbing into our boat. Make space. Six feet in every direction, please.
Now here is the real kicker, and the thing I cannot get past-
Really fucking hard is still the best fucking option.
I do not come to you bearing bad news (which you already know anyway). I come to remind you that we have no other choice. No one does. The parents don't want this. The students don't want this. The teachers don't want this. But we have no choices. It's fucking hard or it's in-person, and that should never have been an option. What are the other choices? Homeschooling. I guess, and not to take away from the parents of our students, but teaching isn't that easy. Remember the above paragraph? One does not simply walk into teaching. The character the writers don't know what to do with suddenly deciding to become a teacher (I'm looking at you Keiko O'Brian) and BAM they're teaching is bullpucky. Horse hockey. Fiddlesticks and other nonsense. I trust my parents, I know they want what is best for their children. And I know that no matter how hard distance teaching will be, those students will be better off with me because this is my job and I'm trained for it and good at it. I'm not specifically trained for this kind of teaching, but I'm more trained than they are.
We should be working in partnership with our parents. They are the teacher in the room, while we're the teacher in the box. We should be flexible *looks hard at places requiring things that are unfeasible in the long run* and have open lines of communication so we can change things and make everyone has happy as they can be. That doesn't mean we can make them happy. Just as happy as they can be.
No one is going to enjoy this year very much. I know that sounds dire and terrible, but we have to admit that.
I hate hate hate with the fire of a thousand suns the cliche "teaching is a marathon not a sprint." I go into why in detail here. The short version is that marathons suck. They suck the whole time. They hurt for the entire race. If you're winning you're in pain the whole time because you're pushing your body harder than it believes it can be pushed and you want to die but your will won't let you. If you in the middle or the back you're still running/walking/staggering over 26 miles. Marathons hurt the entire time. Don't call teaching a marathon because then you're saying that teaching sucks and hurts for 180 days. It doesn't. Teaching is a baseball game. Seriously, read the thing.
Teaching is a baseball game...normally.
This year? This year teaching is going to be a marathon. It's not going to be very fun.
So how does one survive a marathon? The flip answer is training and suffering. The real answer is Faith.
Not faith in a higher power. Faith in thyself. Faith in thy students. Faith that is might be a fucking hard way, but it's the fucking best option. I have to believe that. I'm clinging to it. I can do this. I can teach my kids well. They will learn. We will make it through the year.
Before I had kids I did triathlons. That's the swim/bike/run thing. Sprints, Olympic distances, and once a half Ironman. That's a 1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, and 13.1mi run. I trained my tail off for that. Was in the best shape of my life. Still hurt the whole time. I loved it, because I'm broken (except for the run, I do not love the run), but man it hurt. I got through on training and faith. I believed. I can take another step. I am strong enough. I do have a water table coming. I will nom on a gummy bear for some sugar. They hurt. You survive through the hurt because you have to.
Right now all of us are having tech problems. I can't log in, why am I muted, what's the website, I forgot my password, what icon did you click on I don't see it, why can't I hear you, who left this comment in Classroom, we have to learn what program now and why? The kids will adapt. They will learn. Every year I spend the beginning of my year walking slowly through all of these issues in person and by October zip zap look at that everyone is doing what they need. This isn't every year. The timeline for everything is expanded this year. I'm hoping November we get there. That's a long time. I have to have faith. I have to be preaching to my students and their parents and instilling that faith in them. We can find the way. We will celebrate the small steps. We will find mind games and tricks to get us through the year as best as we can.
Now I will also grant that it's so very easy to say "have faith". It's so very reductive to bring what this year will be down to "it's a marathon." I agree. Metaphors are never perfect fits, they're meant to illustrate a point, not define it. It's going to take collaboration and self-care and support and a million other things too.
But if we don't have faith that even though distance teaching is fucking hard it's the best fucking option we have open to us, I don't know what we have.
It's what I got. I gotta have faith.
*If you do Google it, it's not the first result. It's Google's "Did you mean?" result. But still, don't google it.
** Honestly, I do not know why I don't get asked to write for major education publications.If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.