Finding gratitude in the little gifts of online learning
By Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
The omicron variant of COVID-19 has surged to the point that many school districts are back to remote learning. When the transition was announced in my son's school, I felt a rush of relief.
Though he's fully vaccinated, I knew he would be safer at home from the highly infectious omicron variant. We've seen many around us suffer breakthrough cases and as a person with autoimmune disease, I really want to get through this pandemic without testing my luck with infection.
As a dual-income family, remote learning takes a bit of navigating and negotiating. In our house, this means my husband and I split the day while also getting help from our adult daughter. My husband is the parent on standby for helping with remote learning in the morning, and I pick it up at lunchtime.
My son is in kindergarten (yes, I had my children 15 years apart) and I cannot even imagine holding the attention of a classroom of 5- and 6-year-olds in person, much less via video conference. I envisioned what usually happens when we try to FaceTime Grandma -- my son making funny faces and being more interested in what the inside of his mouth looks like than actually being part of a conversation.
But that's not what's happening. Typing this, I can hear the interactions between my son and his classmates in the next room and this may be the perk I didn't expect.
I hear him being called on. I hear him answering questions, offering up answers.
Yes, of course, there are random outbursts of "this is my dog, Hamilton" and "I got a new globe for Christmas, want to see it?" But his teacher accommodates this, understanding how exciting it is for the kids to share some of their personal lives. Mrs. B even allows for special sharing time so the kids can show friends a favorite toy or object.
Remote learning is a gift beyond keeping kids safe. It's a gift to the children to do something out of the ordinary.
My son doesn't have to wear his uniform shirt and he can see the big smiles of his teacher and his classmates since masks aren't needed. It's definitely a gift for me to be able to witness some of my child's learning. The pandemic has prevented me from volunteering in his classroom and meeting his school friends.
Is it the ideal setting for long-term learning? No.
Do I think it's sustainable long term? Not for every student.
But I do think it's necessary as we get through this record-breaking surge. It also takes some of the worry away from students and parents. In the past three years we've hit the stop and start buttons several times.
Stop. Reassess. Start. Breathe for a minute, only to have new variants emerge and force us to stop once again.
It's stressful and impacts every corner of our lives. Our kids feel it and know it, too. As we hit pause once again for omicron and return to online learning, I am grateful for this simple peek into his daily life with his friends and his teacher, knowing we are safe.
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