Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Perils of Distance Learning

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" After all these years, my name is still Anne Johnson. Doubt if I'm going to change it now.

Trigger Warning: The following post is depressing. If you're already depressed by this pandemic, give me a pass today and go watch "The Red Green Show" on YouTube.

 Through sheer luck -- bad or good I can't decide -- I became a public school teacher in 2009 and have been doing it ever since.

I think the lucky part of my experience is where I landed in my career pivot to school teacher. I work at a school that serves an inner city population. I don't get much bad attitude in my classes, and when I do, I don't take it personally. It's too easy to imagine the stresses these kids are under at home and at school, where of course some bullying takes place and there are the usual cliques and jocks to contend with.

I've been "teaching" remotely since March 16. That's more than 8 weeks, with 4 more weeks to go. And that part about not taking anything personally has been very difficult to maintain.

Can I speak freely here? Dumb question. Then I'll go ahead and do it.

About a third of my students have either not turned in any work at all, or they have done two or three assignments and disappeared. Some of these kids are students I would somewhat have expected to be off task, but others are kids who had really good grades going into this.

At first I pestered every one of the disappeared students, but lately I have just given up. Who knows what is going on for them right now? And the longer they avoid looking at their classwork, the more it piles up. Right now, 8 weeks in, it would be a herculean task for them to catch up.

I was having a very good year at my school. My students were hard-working and motivated, for the most part. This is fortunate, because the ones who are not performing now had such good grades going in that they are not in danger of failing my class.

But it's really saddening to see what little I can do on the power of my personality.

Oh well, not to be completely demoralized ... the kids who are doing my work right along have high-in-the-sky grades, because the assignments I've been giving are really softball.

 It's hard enough for me to sit here in my quiet house and discipline myself with a good laptop and no other obligations. My students have siblings, they share sub-standard devices, and I'll bet many of them are doing the babysitting while their health care worker parents go into the breach. The virus is still spreading in Camden and Pennsauken, affecting people of all ages. So there's that anxiety too.

Now our administration wants us to do Google Meets where we do Zoom-like meetings with our kids. I set up one of these for each of my classes, gave them plenty of notice and late-day start times, and then I sat with the Meet window open and waited for them. And waited. And waited. Not a single kid signed on. I miss them so much -- clearly they don't feel the same.

Ever had a pair of shoes that don't fit well, but you have to wear them anyway? That's how teaching feels for me. Like, I can walk in it ... but it never fits.

Sorry to vent. Y'all don't need any more whining right now. Just had to get this off my chest.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Things I Miss

Well, here we are again at "The Gods Are Bored," on May 72nd or some such. The only upside to teaching from home is that I get enough sleep. This is counterbalanced by a million downsides. It's awful.

But pish tosh! Why dwell on the negative? Hmmm. What can I write about that is positive?

Well, the Monkey Man visited on Mother's Day, with his monkeys in tow and an Eagles mask.


He's behind that poster.

The Monkey Man is one person I don't have to miss during quarantine. He and I have been doing the pen pal thing. We help the postal service. And I write to him because I know he'll write back.

What are you missing in these stay-at-home times? I am really staying at home. Every other week I put on my Gritty mask and go to the supermarket. Otherwise the only time I go out is to walk around Haterfield. No one else wears a mask.

There's so much I miss! In no particular order:

1. the thrift store
2. the thrift store
3. the thrift store
4. teaching the ordinary way
5. the farmer's market
6. the beach (not going until I have a vaccine)
7. Mummers meetings, now being done online
8. LARP in the woods
9. daughters coming for dinner
10. hiking
11. festivals
12. road trips
13. petting other people's dogs
14. the gym
15. teacher workshops where they ladle out mountains of pastry and candy
16. senior student events
17. the thrift store
18. restaurants
19. being able to breathe while outside
20. fitting into my clothes

On the upside, my little back yard has never been more tidy. And there's a jenny wren nesting in the bird house I bought on March 9 before this all hit the fan.

What do you miss?

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Virtual May Day Faerie Festival

So it was round about April 21, and I was sitting in my barca-lounger feeling sorry for myself. I thought, "Oh yeah, and no festivals this year. Great. Just great."

And then I thought of my online exercise classes, and I thought: "Wait a minute. Why couldn't we have an online Faerie Festival?"

I sent a Facebook message to two people I'm close to who I met at the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. Basically, with my limited technology abilities, I just imagined a group page where we could all just post some photos of yesteryear. Just so we wouldn't feel totally alone on festival day.

You know, people know people who can work wonders with the Internet.

Within ten days a young Fairie Festival performer had created a whole virtual playground on Facebook, and on Sunday there was a full schedule of live performances! In ten days more than 1,000 people found their way to that page -- and the photos were shared in profusion! Then came the pre-recorded stories. Then the live interviews with the owners of Spoutwood Farm. More photos, more comments, love in abundance.

Even the dreaded Wotan the Fairy-Smasher sent a greeting from Washington State!

What a weekend! I put on my festival clothes and decorated my front door.


The weather was brilliant. I set my machine up on the front porch and went to a splendid place called Cyberwood.


All my friends were there. And the one festival pal who doesn't have a Facebook page messaged me, and I was able to send him some of the content.

Festivals exist because people want to be in social groups with like-minded people. Many of us go through the world feeling like misfits ... until we find that sweet, sweet festival. Nobody ever said the festival has to be on a particular piece of ground on a particular weekend. It can be any time, in the safety of home.

All of this will make the reunion sweeter when we are able to gather again in the apparent world. For me this will not occur until I've held out my arm for a Covid vaccine.

The moral of this sermon is simple: If you are missing a yearly event because of the virus, find some bright young whippersnapper and make an online version of it!