My Name was Supposed to be Elizabeth Ann

— Stories from the Roads (Not) Taken

The first in an occasional series

I thought I was ready.

March 6, my teaching district conducted a survey of students’ at-home internet and device access. The following week, we had conversations and meetings, a flurry of emails offering resources and support. I began updating my Google drive, copying my in-district files for access at home. I scanned non-digital documents, brought home books and unit binders. I developed a plan for instructing and communicating with my students in the event of a mandated shutdown, and I shared it with my classes. Some of my colleagues expressed understandable concerns about the transition. About teaching remotely. About what would be expected of us. Of our students. 

But I felt neither anxious nor concerned. I planned to continue teaching as I have always done, as my students are used to my doing. Except I would do so through our computers rather than the classroom. The district even rescheduled our in-service from March 20 to March 16 so we could coordinate in our departments and write plans.

Then during a mid-afternoon press conference  on Friday, March 13, New Jersey’s governor announced closures would be a matter of When, not If. Five hours later, my superintendent called to announce the closure of all county schools through April 17.

I wasn’t ready at all.

I’m not sure how I feel about this, I posted to my writers group on Slack. Not the fact of online teaching and learning. I’ve been an online learner for nearly ten years, everything from PD for my job to graduate-level creative writing classes. I’m also in an online writing group through StoryADay.org. I employ online platforms in my daily instruction. I feel comfortable with and enjoy their flexibility and variety.

However, I wasn’t ready for the sense of loss. When classes ended Friday, I told my students, See you on Tuesday. And now, I wouldn’t. Like that, everything had changed.

No one gets into teaching for the money. Ask any teacher why he or she  chose this profession and most stories share a common theme: They enjoy working with young people, and they want to do work that matters. 

What we do next matters. Maybe more than everything we’ve done before. Bottom line? I’m worried about my kids. About all of our kids.

This too shall pass, yes. 

But when?

And how?

One lesson at a time.

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