I just got off the phone with one of my daughters. She’s a math teacher in a public middle school here in New York and has to try to teach her 100 plus sixth and eighth graders “remotely”—mostly by way of links through electronic devices. Her husband is in the same boat. They’re both trying to figure out how to teach for real by way of electronics but, more importantly, to maintain personal connections with the kids they have been teaching since last September.
On top of that, the two of them have three school-aged children who are at the receiving end of “remote learning” provided by teachers in their school.
When we spoke, she sounded exhausted. Truth be told, that’s not so unusual for her. But I asked if she was more tired by her students or by her kids. Without much hesitation, she responded, “My kids.” We then spoke briefly about my wife’s efforts earlier today to read a book on facetime with her two six-year old sons and one of their cousins, a five-year old girl who is the youngest child of our other daughter. It didn’t go as well as it had in earlier times. The kids were distracted and all too talkative. Keep in mind that my wife has the proverbial patience of a saint and she didn’t once despair.
Towards the end of the session, their grandmother simply asked the kids if they were ready to stop. They weren’t quite able to answer although their actions made it pretty clear that reading time was over. What also became clear, through the facetime window, was that they were mostly deeply involved in other stuff with each other in one of the many “secret tunnels” that the boys have constructed in their part of the house.
Their fascination with “secret tunnels” is not new but we decided to pick up on it and offered to show them one of “our” secret tunnels–but we would have to wait. They begged for us to do it right then. Of course, we couldn’t because we didn’t have one. We said that we’d show it to them tomorrow and they finally consented. We’ll start early in the morning—with a couple of sheets and some tape.
I mentioned that to my daughter and she said that the kids spent so much time each day in front of a screen that they were tired of it and that they simply wanted to play. Imagine that—kids want to play. Imagine further that, at the end of all this, lots of kids, tired of the screens, might want to play again—on the streets, in the playgrounds, on the sports fields and in places that their parents don’t even know about. That might be a real silver lining.