Day 1 of remote-learning.

Dear Diary,

Over the weekend, cases within my district increased enough that the decision was made to move to a full remote-learning model for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, the company that is supplying Chromebooks for our learners is incredibly backlogged with orders, so all of the laptop carts in the buildings were dismantled in an emergency fashion so that students could pick them up at buildings early this week. I can’t imagine what the actual shortage of technology on a national level actually looks like during this pandemic.

Our family had a stressful day on Sunday, to say the least. A visit to Urgent Care for a tick bite, then the scramble to prepare for all virtual learning seemed to last the rest of the day, with sprinklings of dinner preparation, messaging with coworkers, emails for information, impromptu-faculty meetings, and bedtime preparations.

My first class began at 8am, with only one artist logging into the Google Meet. I met his hamster, Gumdrop. After about 10 minutes, I asked if he could log into his homeroom classroom in case everyone else was there, and then report back to me. Nobody was there. He came back on and he offered some reasons why people may not be checking in with art class: they don’t have electronics, their electronics don’t have the updates to install Google Classroom, maybe they forgot that the district was moving to remote learning. After 15 minutes, I excused him to take some time to draw and he was eager to get started. About 5 minutes after he logged off, some of the rest of his class logged into Google Meet. They trickled in, one by one, seconds or minutes apart. Their homeroom teacher met with them right away in the morning before they signed in with me. I was a little confused as to why the first artist didn’t see anyone when he first checked into his classroom and discovered nobody there. Who knows? We covered some virtual learning “norms,” got an idea of materials available at home, and then played a game, Scribble Head. The artists had a fun time, and so did I.

My next class was scheduled to begin at 8:45, and the same trickling in of artists happened as it did for the first.  Only four appeared, but we had a fun time doing an art game.

In my next class, only one artist signed in, and he couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t hear him, despite our microphones and volume being on. I signed off and signed back in, so did he, but no change. I have no idea what’s going on. I double-checked my Google Classroom roster, and nearly all of the artists had accepted the invitation. Stuff happens.

As I waited for a class to log on, I reflected about how nice it was to see everyone’s faces. I have been struggling to learn everyone’s names – about 600 artists, once every 6 days, this week ends the 7th studio visit and begins the 8th studio visit with them. It has been challenging to memorize eyes and hairstyles – those are the only constant features I see week to week. Everything else changes, masks, clothing, and even sometimes their seats in the classroom. I hope that remote-learning assists me in solidifying names.

Everyone is under a lot of stress. Today I have witnessed people pulling together and supporting each other or attempting to do so, and others being short in words and in temper. Parents are stressed across the nation in dealing with the continued response to the pandemic and all of the life changes that have followed. My poor children have been glued to the television today, except for during my lunch break, as a result of all of us being home. Yes, I have been short tempered with them, yes there were meltdowns, and thankfully we fit in some smiles, too.

Well….I waited and waited for one of my afternoon classes, and after 10 minutes, I checked GC in case anyone reached out with questions about class. When I got to the GC Art page, I observed a mistake that I had made with the Meet link. I had left the Meet link visible to the students, when I had planned to use the Meet link that I posted in the stream, along with my schedule for the day and my expectation to see all of the artists on our meet. I wonder – did anyone try the link that was on the banner and not see the one I posted for today, our first remote day? When I didn’t show up (because I was patiently waiting in the other Google Meeting room), did they apply the same 5-minute rule we did in college, then leave?

My son, Oscar, continually asked during the day when he could have time with me to paint, and every time, I had to deny him. In the afternoon, between my final two classes I set up the at-home painting studio for the kids and somehow, by a miracle, they shared the paint and enjoyed some creative time.

I found that I definitely missed not being up and on my feet all day, moving from classroom to classroom, passing out materials for creativity, and leading our Artist Mantra in person. My “Move” ring suffered, but I’m thankful that my health is safe. My own children have gotten me to the point where I don’t know how much more I can take. For the most part during my work hours, they were well behaved. We had our moments. By the time I could close my laptop and pursue some detox time, I decided to sit quietly in the living with HGTV on. Of course…every single time I attempted to listen and watch something that I wanted, these kids were loud and bouncing off of the walls. I just need some quiet right now, and there’s no quiet in sight. God help all parents who are working remotely while managing their household and children at the same time. How quickly I forgot how difficult and stressful this was when the state closed down the schools last spring.