After just half a day of home-schooling, I am officially in awe of all teachers
While the world outside panicked over coronavirus, I was to be the calm, efficient teacher to my child. It didn’t last long
We are doing a writing exercise at the kitchen table, about 90 minutes into home-schooling. So far, it’s gone quite well. I’ve drawn a grid with alphabetised headers and I’m dictating words for my five-year-old to write down. There was a brief dispute about which pen to use – she picked up a permanent marker, then wouldn’t accept, in spite of my reasoning, that it was 100% the wrong pen – but now we’re on track.
I’ve totally got this, I think. I point out she is doing the letter S backwards, nicely ask her to try again, offer to show her how, tell her to stop being unreasonable, mutter “oh my god what is your problem I’m only trying to help you!” Now she’s screaming “stop confusing me!” Jesus Christ, there’s another month of this to go.
Like salesmanship and writing, teaching is one of those things a lot of people sneakily think they could probably do if they had the time. When the New York school system shut down on Monday, I went into this new period of quarantine fully nursing this delusion. By the end of the home-schooling period maybe my kids wouldn’t necessarily be up to scratch with their curriculum. But after busting out my best Jean Brodie impression, I truly thought I’d have them reciting Wreck of the Deutschland, proffering age-inappropriate opinions about politics, and engaging with the world with a sense of wonder unaided by worksheets. This was going to be great.
This confidence lasted until approximately lunchtime that first day. After the fight about the letter S, I tried to engage with the school’s online maths resources, died a small death at reading the word “module”, got bored after the third paragraph, wondered how teachers cope with the volume of information they have to process, then called snack time.
Going into this period I already loved my girls’ teachers, but along with a lot of other parents in New York this week, trying to teach my own kids has filled me with an unparalleled sense of amazement. How on earth, in a single kindergarten year, had they got them reading and writing and counting and sitting quietly – and that’s in a class with 20 other kids? I have two and by midweek was exhausted and screaming.
We make a decision, my children and I. We’re going to keep our expectations low. We’re not going to schedule this out. We will study when we feel like it and if someone wants to break off to give their Baby Alive doll her flu shot or do a drawing unrelated to the task at hand, that’s not annoying, it’s OK, really it’s OK, no I’m not angry, I just need to step away for a second to look out of the window.
By the afternoon, I have put them on iPads so I can get some work done. For a moment the apartment is quiet and I let the delusion resurface that I’ve got this. It’s going to be fine. From their bedroom I hear one of the kids shout, “Oh my god he said the F-word,” and, falling out of my chair, I yell: “Give me that!” Tomorrow, tomorrow, we’ll nail it tomorrow.