I’ve been teaching for fifteen years. That’s halfway to retirement, but any time someone mentions the possibility, I tell them there’s no way I’ll be ready. I love teaching. Thirty years won’t be enough. I love basically every part of this job except faculty meetings. I rewrite my entire curriculum every year for fun. I make lesson plans while I walk my dog, just because I get excited about my ideas. I even teach when I’m not teaching; I coach flag football and occasionally spend a weekend teaching my kid and his friends the perfect way to construct a stick fort. I’ve had hard days, sure, and even hard years.
But I’ve never resented going to work because teaching has always felt like home to me.
Enter distance learning. Like every other teacher in the universe, my job suddenly pivoted 180 degrees. Now, I spend hours sitting in front of the computer and recording lessons. I struggle with Zoom, grading, and exploring online lesson options. It seems like some of those elements would have an overlap with the job I used to have, but they don’t.
Providing feedback on a student’s writing on the computer is a completely different animal than conferencing with a student about her work. I can’t say, “Read me this sentence. Okay, now that one. Do you see what the problem is there? How could we fix that?” Instead, I have to make an effort to picture that child’s face in my mind and remember what she’s capable of as a writer before I respond on her Google Doc.
I hate distance teaching online.
It’s not just that I miss my kids and I’m worried about them, although I do. It’s that I actually dread doing my job. I don’t want to go through IXL units and figure out which standard to assign. I don’t feel like checking their quizzes again to see which kids turned in the assignment from two weeks ago. I just don’t like it. Plus, I’m at home, and there are a million things I could be doing. I could be playing tea party with my daughter, or reading a book, or folding a load of laundry. Anything would be better than logging back into Google Classroom.
I realize how whiny this sounds. I mean, seriously? I have a job that I can do from home, my hours are somewhat flexible, and, most of all, I’m getting paid. I’m not unaware of how lucky I am. But if I’m dealing with this novel experience of hating my job, I can only imagine a lot of other teachers are in the same place, so here are some things that are helping me cope.
It’s not forever.
There are tons of people in the world who work jobs that they hate for decades. And they have to do it full time, whereas I’m only putting in a few hours a day now. I’ve got to make it through about six more weeks, and then hopefully this experience will be behind me.
This is how my kids feel.
While I’d love to believe they wake up every morning and leap out of bed at the thought of coming to my Language Arts class, that’s probably not the case. This feeling I have—when I look at my computer with loathing and think of all the things I’d rather be doing? My seventh graders are very familiar with that feeling. It’s helping me give a little more grace both to my kids and to myself, and that sense of battlefield camaraderie makes things just a smidge better.
I can hate distance teaching and still do it well.
People do it all the time. My YouTube videos can still be energetic and focused, my feedback can still be detailed, my communication can still be positive. I don’t have to surf the wave of educational bliss to be a good teacher, and it doesn’t make me a bad person or a bad teacher if I’m not enjoying my job right now.
I see colleagues and teachers online who are thriving with online learning; they’re great at the technology and are using this as an opportunity to infuse their lessons with a new sense of creativity and flexibility. Thank God for those people. Me, I’m going to do the absolute best I can while this lasts and look forward to the days when I can get back to the job I love.
Do you love or hate distance teaching? Share about it on the We Are Teachers HELPLINE.