- Yet Another Unsettling ‘New Normal’ Day
Yet Another Unsettling ‘New Normal’ Day
By Didi Gorman
This morning started a little rocky. For some reason, I was under the illusion it was Friday. Two hours into my working day I realized today was actually Thursday. As a result, I have advanced on my Friday tasks but am a bit behind on Thursday’s. Not a big deal, but it was still enough to throw me off.
I then checked my emails and immediately regretted it. A barrage of messages from school with so many procedures to read, remote-learning apps to install, curriculums to follow, and surveys to complete, that I was totally overwhelmed and needed to take a break – in the form of a walk outside – in order to regain control over my frantic thoughts and be able to prioritize my tasks for the day.
I decided to prioritize my real work over schooling-related tasks which, in hindsight, was a clever thing to do, though this decision is not that obvious these days, and involves a fair amount of guilt and stress.
In the evening, when I finally got round to reading all those emails and going over those new procedures, clicked all the links, consulted all the documents, installed all the necessary apps, logged into them, uploaded this, downloaded that, and filled out surveys – I found that it wasn’t that bad after all. I’m even becoming quite tech-savvy as a result of this. Only thing is, by the time I was finished and ready to show it all to the kids, they had already gone to bed, so I will still need to explain it to them and supervise (or rather, hope) that they actually follow the new guidelines.
One of the surveys I filled out was about the readiness of families to support online schooling: Do you have a tablet/computer for each child? Could you support your children’s remote learning? Do you have a reliable internet access? Well, no, no, and no. My children will have to compete over one single old computer which tends to abruptly lose Wi-Fi connection, and they’ll do it without adult supervision, given that both their parents work full-time.
This has filled me with– how shall I define it? Anxiety? Concern? – that my children will fall behind for no fault of their own. I wish I could just homeschool, but I don’t think I’m cut out for that, not even if I was offered a salary for that. On second thought, I would have probably seriously considered it if I was offered a salary for homeschooling.
Back to reality. So now high schoolers will have five and a half months off school, from mid-March to the end of August, and I’m worried this long break will compromise their well-being. Also, they now must complete their studies by remote.
This is going to be very challenging. Chaotic even.
What about those who are not built for autonomous studying? And what about full-time working parents? Do we need to add teaching to our workdays? And in that case, what about real teachers who are dying to go back to school? Isn’t it ironic that parents have to reluctantly undertake teaching, while real, talented, dedicated teachers don’t get to do the thing they are so good at?
I’m not at all sure that this ‘new normal’ of remote schooling, without the support of the school structure, is conducive to learning. And if remote learning is the new normal, do we even need schools anymore?
In my wishful thinking the coronavirus curve will have flattened by June and schools resume over the summer. (Yes, yes, you read correctly, over the summer.) I would leave a couple of weeks at the end for vacation but would open schools in June all the way through mid-August, catching up on all the material we’ve lost, so we can start anew in September.
A bit naïve on my part, perhaps, to hope that the summer holidays could be touched, but some of it is because my children really miss their school routine, their classmates, the intellectual challenge, and yes, their teachers too; and some is because I’m terribly fearful that folks will travel abroad in the summer and bring the virus back with them, just like the surge in infection we experienced here in Quebec after the March Break. Will we then have to shut schools down again for five and a half months starting in September?
On top of this, we need to decide whether to send our youngest back to elementary school. Whichever we choose, it won’t be ideal. I’m worried (again) that one of us will get the virus. On the other hand, young children are going crazy, cooped up at home like that for weeks on end. A question of well-being vs risk, for which there is no easy answer.
It brings me down, this constant state of fretting and what-ifs.
With the children now home for five and a half months, this just drags on and on, and whatever lies beyond this abnormal ‘new normal’ is still an unknown.
I want my life back.