We are living in unprecedented times. Aren’t you tired of hearing that phrase? Well, of course you are, but one of the things we were probably least expecting — but that we’re all doing our best to cope with — is the latest phenomenon known as Zoom school.
Kids everywhere are figuring out what learning virtually looks like, and it is certainly not without its bumps in the road! But while older kids who are already pretty well-versed in using computers — and, ya know, sitting still for more than five minutes — might not be having too much trouble, the youngest learners (and their overstressed parents, hi!) are really being thrown for a loop.
My 6-year-old son just started Zoom kindergarten this week. I practically kicked and screamed to avoid this from happening.
I told my ex-husband that I’d rather homeschool him, or let him roam around the house all year, or watch YouTube. Basically anything other than Zoom school. But here we are at the end of the first week, and let me tell you, it felt like one of the longest weeks of my life.
I didn’t have to handle the first day of school, which was really a positive because I was so anxiety-ridden about the whole ordeal. I would’ve likely stressed my poor kindergartner out even more. Luckily, it fell on my ex-husband’s day, so he was in charge as my kid ventured into his Zoom classroom for the first time.
It wasn’t without a few challenges. First off, our login (and many of the other children’s logins) weren’t working. My son’s dad had to text the poor teacher at the last minute to figure out a different way to log in. I couldn’t help but think that she was probably getting completely inundated with texts from frantic parents at that very moment. Fortunately, she responded right away, and he was able to get online.
He sent me a few pictures while I was working, and I could breathe easy for a while. Then he sent a follow-up text. “This is kind of a 💩 show.” I wondered what was going on and if my son was the kid who was falling out of his chair and making a scene on the class Zoom.
Turns out, my son was not the kid falling out of his chair and refusing to sit still. They basically all were. Most of the kids in the class, though legitimately doing their best, were having their own unique struggles. Some of them couldn’t figure out how to turn their mics off, or they just were having fun turning them off and on. Others were toppling out of their chairs or rough-housing.
I was a little terrified for my turn to start helping him out with school, especially because I had an important work project that day. I got up early and prepared my work project to the best of my ability so I could help my son focus. We got all set up at his desk, and the teacher came on promptly at 8:50. My son chatted with her for a few minutes before others joined.
I was ridiculously impressed with how sweet and calm my son’s teacher was. She took the time to ask him about his dog and his room and his stuffed animals. I leaned in and introduced myself. Even though I knew the day wasn’t going to be perfect, I felt incredibly grateful that his teacher came across as so genuine and warm — even through a computer screen.
As the class took off, I had to be nearby. My son couldn’t get down how to mute and unmute his mic. Every time his teacher asked him a question he leaped out of his chair and ran to get me. I realized I had to sit by him the entire time. While my work schedule is highly flexible, I just couldn’t imagine how other parents without that luxury would be able to do this.
The day, filled with mini lessons, a few games aimed at helping the kids practice turning off their mics and camera, then back on, and some videos, felt long. And I knew it felt long for my son, who had to be asked to get back in his seat at least 15 or so times. Staring into the screen all that time felt draining even for me. I knew it had to be tough for him.
Once the school day was over around 12:30, we went straight outside, even though it was raining. My son ran all over the neighborhood, rode his bike, and got all of his pent-up energy out. Then we went to Target for a special “first week of school” present. It was totally not a normal week, but I wanted to make it feel a little bit exciting anyway.
The whole experience was pretty stressful. But there were some pleasant surprises — the first being how patient and amazing his teacher was. She didn’t add extra stress by being too stern, knowing that this is a lot for such little kids and their parents. She remained completely flexible, which was the perfect vibe for the first week.
I was also surprised that I felt like, even after just a few days of school, he was already getting to know his teacher and his classmates. Zoom is definitely not a perfect solution to this problem. But while I was very skeptical about us going down this route at all, I am glad that he’s forming relationships with the people he will hopefully get to see in person soon enough.
Overall, I’m just hoping that my son keeps doing his best and that I can be one-tenth as patient as his teacher is. We all have so many challenges this year. So many teachers are running virtual classrooms with their own kids at home doing the same. We all have to be patient with one another and with our kids.
I’m so glad that I had that modeled for me this week by my son’s teacher. It truly made all the difference.