There haven't been many positives that have come from the coronavirus pandemic. This won't be a time we look back on fondly.
But one thing this virus has taught us is the difference between what we can't do and what we have simply chosen not to do for years.
I have always been impressed with educators. I have coached enough youth sports to know that spending a couple of hours a few times a week with kids in a learning environment can be difficult. Getting kids to pay attention long enough to learn about playing a game they love is difficult. I can't imagine trying to keep a gaggle of teens engaged over topics like geometry and history.
Day in and day out, teachers keep showing up and making the magic happen. Then one day, the governor announced that those kids won't be coming to class for the rest of this year but the magic still has to happen.
The teachers and administrators literally had hours to take most of a semester's worth of in-class instruction and figure out how to present it to their classes who weren't leaving their homes.
Each student has different access to computers, the internet, and familial assistance at home.
It was an impossible task. But everything is impossible until you figure out how to do it.
Teachers have created online classes, worked with students to receive and complete assignments and tried to redefine normal. I have one son who is a social distancing world champion. He loves this. Sure, he misses the drama department, but he loves the classwork. My younger son is highly social and isn't doing as well in a more isolated world. He is doing well in online classes, but he has hired my wife as a home-school tutor. My boys both have devices and internet access that are more than sufficient for me to upload and download files for work so they have advantages.
Teachers have made an effort to close the gaps for those who don't. One of my favorite teachers is Jennifer Mueller at Central High School. I spoke to some of her classes earlier this year. They already used a classroom with no desks. There was no rigidity. Something tells me her students are adjusting pretty well. But even Mrs. Mueller is worried about how the new method is working.
"Distance learning is crazy. I feel like I am always behind. I really miss my kids, friends, and classroom," she said. "Part of it is that I am also worried about how the kids are handling it all. Is it too much or not enough? Are they ok?"
Mueller also confirmed what both of my sons are saying. The instruction time is very different and the workload is higher. Without time together, teachers need to see more results and that means more assignments. I'm sure my two students aren't the only ones who noticed this and voiced loud concerns on multiple occasions.
Luckily, they have a father who is kind and empathetic enough to tell them to stop whining and do their work. (That's good advice in almost every situation.)
As the world is forced into many difficult and uncomfortable situations, it was great to see educators rising to the challenge to make sure this time isn't wasted.
Kent Bush is the editor of the Rapid City Journal.
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