What a difference a few weeks make. Who could have known, back in January, the world would have changed so much. Education, for one, is vastly different. Once school closed, teachers scrambled to prepare online education and began teaching in a virtual classroom to support their students during this challenging time.
I too have been part of the effort. Every Monday I deliver learning packages to the homes on my bus route. It’s been great to wave at the small smiling faces I see in windows and doorways. Two of my passengers, Molly and Claire Larson, draw a special picture for me each week and hang it where I’ll see. Such moments of contact, no matter how brief, mean a lot.
As an EA, I’m also at my home computer to help children online. However, placing a microphone and camera in the hands of a young child, who then broadcasts his or her family’s activities from the (supposed) privacy of their home, can pose new and unusual problems.
I have now heard: extensive use of power implements, dogs barking and subsequent hollering at said dogs, profuse swearing, babies crying, the clatter of meal preparation, TVs blaring and sausages sizzling. (Of course, that’s pure speculation. It could well have been hamburgers.)
Another interesting situation arose as one of our teachers delivered a math class from home. Without warning, her husband Dunlop burst onto the scene behind her, a guitar strung round his neck as he paced about the room lustily singing, “Before Every River Runs Dry” by Brooks and Dunn. Everything stopped dead as he appeared on camera. Never missing a beat, Gwen moved aside, and the group at home edged closer to their screens to catch the entirety of this fine rendition.
I also meet with a group of teens to read a novel. Somewhat reluctantly, they take turns reading aloud, then enjoy a brief discussion of the chapter before signing off. No one (including me) seems overly eager to flip on the camera, since they know their face will fill each participant’s screen, but it’s worked out well—mostly.
After two of my cats interrupted class the previous day, I decided to lock them out. Lovingly, I nuzzled Nemo, a particularly fluffy specimen before setting him down outside the door, shutting it firmly and taking my seat in front of the computer.
“Hello,” I greeted them cheerily. After each one had read, I finished out the hour. It was a gripping portion of the tale and leaning closer I gazed down into the camera, enunciating every word, playing the role of each character with feeling and verve. My voice shook with intensity and my face shone big and round on each screen as I came to the end of the chapter where the hero returns home.
Snapping the book shut, we ended the class, I wished them all a good day and smiled as, with a chorus of goodbyes, they were gone. However, it was as I passed the living room mirror that I caught sight of my moon-like face. OH NO! I had spent the last 45 minutes on every screen, in every home, in living colour— with a huge, white blob protruding from my nose. ARGH.
Sure, it was an unpleasant lump of cat fur, but they didn’t know that! How desperately uncool Mrs. Toews. Blasted technology.