Thursday, October 22, 2020


I reached ten years of teaching last spring, and never did fathom I’d be in the middle of a pandemic where I couldn’t even hit up a bar and raise a toast with a room full of friends and family to memorialize the milestone. It goes without saying that these times of COVID-19 are truly historic and unlike any other pandemic in history. I can’t stress how humbling (in the worst way possible) it’s been as a teacher to navigate a virtual classroom. Instead of my school days filled with recess duty, making copies, and dealing with 10 kids at a time needing a potty break; instead my days are filled with zoom meetings, reminding kids to stay muted, blindly teaching to a shared screen as I run the risk of not gaging their understanding by sheer facial expression, and talking them through a litany of online platforms all for different uses, and begging them (sometimes threatening them) to keep track of each username, password and codes. “Ask me one more time for your username and see what happens to the marble jar kids.” Little do they know is their precious marble jar they fill to get an ice cream party, has a direct correlation to my metaphorical mental marbles. But I digress. 

Like all teachers out there I’ve been faced with a different kind of classroom and the challenge of how to manage said challenges. I don’t worry about a kid getting out of their seat without permission, or side conversations while I’m teaching. But now that unmute button has become my demise. My patience for this reached it’s boiling point back in May. We were three months in the stay at home order and it was all I could do to just push through the last month of school. 

Make no mistake, I like to think of myself as a fairly modern teacher, and I never thought I’d go “old school” and put a kid in timeout.  But you know, desperate times call for desperate measures; and I’d venture to say these COVID times are fairly desperate. Insert shoulder shrug. 

It was the afternoon zoom reading session when we were doing a read aloud of our class book we were on. Like all zoom sessions, I started with the golden rule of zoom: don’t unmute yourself unless invited or called on. Well, most kids got this golden rule: don’t unmute yourselves. Alas there’s always that one; we’ll call him Grap. Oh Grap was attention starved. And don’t get me wrong, this kid is a sweetheart through and through with a heart of gold, but he is a kid who loves attention, who was also stuck at home, while every other member of his family navigated their own zoom schedules. Poor kid, my heart went out to him - just not this day. 

So our reading time starts, and not 5 minutes in (in the midst of reading) we all hear a voice that must’ve been the twin of Mickey Mouse. Yes, image a high pitch friendly voice that just blurts out “HI EVERYONE,” just for kicks and giggles. Me: “Grap, you have to stay muted.”

Grap: (in a sweet voice) sorrrrrrrrrry

We proceed to read, and not 10 minutes later I swear we’re getting a guest appearance from The Mickey Mouse Club again with the same line. And I tell this kid again, (now with a tinge of annoyance), to stay muted when it’s not his turn to read. The sweet apology comes shortly after. “Sorrrrry.” 

He strikes again, now not 7 minutes later, and...I...was...done! Without a single word, I hit my book down on the table in front of me, I told the student who was reading to stop as I sat in front of the screen and crossed my arms complete with a glare that would cut anyone in half. My father told me I have eyes that could kill, and those dagger eyes were out.  All of a sudden this sweet Mickey impersonator went silent, and cut his video. He could feel the heat from the zoom screen and he was in the hot seat. All the while, all his counterparts knew it too, as the 10 year old OMG faces graced my zoom screen, complete with their hands over their mouths. 

“Oh no, don’t you dare hide behind a no video!  Show your face now Grap. He timidly starts his video again, as he shows half his face in the screen, proceeding with another but more sincere “sorrrrry.” 

Oh no, we’re wayyyy past sorry dude! I told you twice before this last time to stay muted while someone else is reading. So ya know what Grap? You see your bed behind you? Go sit on your bed, and read along from there. And don’t you dare get up; don’t you dare raise your hand; you will not be called on to read; and you have no questions. If I see you move from that bed; if you move from sitting criss cross applesauce; if I even hear you breath I will call your mother on the spot in front of all your friends and let her know how disruptive you’ve been and how a virtual timeout on your bed wasn’t enough to keep you quite. Do you understand me Grap? *Cue terrified face and nodding head.* “Good, now go sit in timeout.” 

Now the one thing I appreciated from this was the handful of parents who happen to hear this and get a chuckle outta my virtual classroom management skills. Oh, you can bet I love a good dust your shoulder off, teacher victory moment. 

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