It’s the First Day of Virtual School and We Haven’t Quite Mastered the Mute Button

2020 August 26
by Jennifer

7:40am: My daughters come downstairs, dressed and ready for their first day of virtual school.  Look! Mom has left a thoughtful surprise at their breakfast spots: new books and handwritten letters of praise and encouragement.  It’s going to be a great year! We got this!

7:45am: Students enjoy homemade healthy muffins. There was zucchini hidden in there and they had no idea.  Compliments to the chef!  

7:50am: I want to always remember this big day, so I take a video asking my children what grade they’re in and who their teachers are.  The kindergartner gets both questions wrong.

7:52am: We walk outside to take classic first day of school photos on the front porch.  The 3rd grader wants the cat to be in the photo.  I insist on taking a few without the cat as well.  At this point our pandemic pet feels more like a random girlfriend than a real member of the family. We walk back inside.

8am: 3rd grader logs into her Google Classroom.  She chitchats with classmates who have also logged on early.  They discuss Jojo Siwa and whether they like him…or her.  I don’t know who this person is, but apparently my daughter does and is not a fan.  I’m thinking that’s the right answer.

8:10am: School is in session!

8:11am: Not so fast. Tech glitches in kindergarten. Is it me? Is it this iPad? Is it our internet? Am I clicking the wrong link? I go find another iPad.

8:20am: Two-year-old wakes up.  Technically, she has been awake for a while, but it’s probably time to get her out of the crib. Dad gets her up and puts her in the shower to buy some time and keep her out of the way. She loves showers.

8:25am: Two parents are now troubleshooting on multiple school, work and home devices attempting to get our kindergartner in her class. No luck.

8:35am: Husband leaves home and heads to the office.  Wife is feeling a little jealous frazzled, but still high on the fact that she lovingly penned two thoughtful notes that her children will surely treasure forever. And how about those those fantastic muffins?!

8:55am: School is finally happening in kindergarten. I think.  I panic-text other moms to make sure everyone’s audio is choppy—not just ours.  The teacher is teaching the children and their parents how to turn their microphones off.

9:02am: Transition toddler from the shower to a two-inch-deep bathtub full of bath toys. Pinterest calls it sensory play, I call it the splash cage.

9:10am: I rejoin the virtual kindergarten to find that instead of sitting at her desk, my daughter is sitting under it. I put her in her chair and tell her to pay attention.  To what? Not quite sure.  Looks like the class has yet to master mute and unmute.  And I’m pretty sure the teacher is still taking attendance.

9:15am: 3rd grader is in virtual PE and doing jumping jacks to party tunes in her bedroom.  Her computer screen displays a countdown clock telling her when to get back in her chair.   At least someone in this house is self-sufficient.

9:20am: Looks like the kindergartner has clicked out of the Google Classroom and is playing games on the iPad.  Wondering if those games are perhaps a better use of her time?  Are we missing something or is everyone doing this?

9:36am: Two-year-old is out of the bath and requesting breakfast.  She was asleep when I delighted her sisters with those superfood magical muffins this morning.

9:39am: Two-year-old refuses to eat the muffins.  I’m not gonna fight it today.  How about an all-you-can-eat cereal buffet instead?

9:40am: Bowl one.

9:45am: Bowl two

9:50am: Bowl three.

9:52am: Racking my brain for a two-year-old activity that doesn’t involve eating, running up the water bill, or parental supervision.  I put her outside in the driveway and close the gate.  I put the cat outside too.

10:02am: 3rd grader calls me upstairs.  She needs help with an All About Me presentation.  I tell her she needs to do it by herself.  I help her open PowerPoint and I realize that she actually does need my help and she probably can’t do it herself. I keep that a secret for now. But I expect to be called back in very soon.

10:10am:  Two-year-old comes back inside. Independent driveway play didn’t last as long as I hoped it would.  She has also decided that today is the day she wants to potty train! Potty training is not on my to-do list this calendar year. She BEGS me to take off her diaper, and when I finally take it off she refuses to let me help her get on the actual potty. She wants to get up there allbyherself. Once she is up there she seems afraid. Nothing happens. Diaper back on. Repeat.

10:20am: Back upstairs. Due to tech glitches in the Spanish immersion program, Kindergarten sounds like a remix at the discoteca.  The kindergartner plays with dolls on the floor of her bedroom while the DLI EDM soundtrack blasts from the iPad.

10:25am Two-year-old has taken OFF her diaper and is walking upstairs to join us.  I rush to secure it and realize that she has left a trail of poo balls in her wake.  She has one in her hand. 

10:29am: Back in the bath. This time with soap.

10:32am: Kindergartener needs help logging out of one zoom, into another and simultaneously into some other program. This maneuver requires both an access code and an advanced degree in information technology.  I have neither. Once we’re finally in, it’s time for yet another round of the mute/unmute tutorial.

10:58am: I realize that the cat is in the 3rd grade with the door closed.  That is absolutely against the rules because if the door is closed, she can’t get to the litter box. I open the door to take the cat out of the bedroom but in runs the two-year-old.  Now the 3rd grader is visibly upset because she wants the toddler out but wants the cat to stay in. The kindergartner is no longer at her desk and somehow the iPad is missing. She walks downstairs and points to another tiny poo ball on the step that somehow I missed the first time.  Or is this a new one?  I hear the ding-ding-ding from my work computer reminding me of the to-dos that await. Everyone needs me rightthisveryminute.

11am: I cry real tears. I am frustrated and angry and overwhelmed. And somehow, I am also a cat owner. How are we going to do virtual school from 8:10am-1:30pm every single day?   HOW IS IT ONLY 11AM? WHY AM I HOLDING POOP?

11:15am: Quit virtual kindergarten. We are logged out and I refuse to put forth the effort required to log back in.  It has become clear that virtual kindergarten is an oxymoron and an impossibility.  I tell the kindergartener to do a puzzle.

11:30am: Lunch Break! This I can do. 

11:36am: Not so fast.  I burn three grilled cheeses.  Clearly off my game. I decide they are salvageable and scrape off the charred bits. Lunch is served.   

11:45am: Still on lunch break, I play music to lift my spirits and I give myself a major mental pep talk. I search for silver linings. We dance in the kitchen.

12pm: Lunch break is over.  Back to school!

12:02pm: 3rd grader is back at her desk learning. Like actually learning. The teacher and my daughter are talking to each other in Spanish. She is taking notes with a sharpened pencil as she sits in the desk that I built. (Ok. Built is strong. The desk that I assembled.)

12:05pm:  I close the door to her bedroom feeling very proud of her but mostly proud of myself.  I assembled that desk! And that chair!  What a marvelous little learning nook I created.  What a precious little learner.

12:10am Kindergartner is logged in and doing kindergarten-ish things. Maybe even learning?   Yes. Learning is happening.

12:30am: So this is kindergarten. They are talking about letters and colors and feelings.  Everyone is muted except for the teacher.  The system seems to be working. 

But wait. What is this?  Oh no. I feel my tears coming.

12:35am: I excuse myself to cry. Again.  The 11am cry was because I was frustrated by the technology and overwhelmed by it ALL.  But this time I cry because I’m genuinely sad.  Virtual school makes me sad. This is not at all how kindergarten should be.  I am sad for my daughter who isn’t meeting her amazing teachers in person, being the line leader, the lunch captain, or the lucky one who gets to feed the class guinea pig. She doesn’t get to meet new friends and ride the bus with her big sister like she has dreamed about. Virtual 3rd grade is fine, but pales in comparison to the in school experience. I cry for the teachers who did not sign up for this either.  I know they have broader learning objectives than just teaching the kids how to mute and unmute. Not being able to really connect with their new students must break their hearts. I wonder how many teachers cried today too.

Our district has promised “at least” nine weeks of virtual school.  In my sad cry, nine weeks feels like an absolute e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y.

12:45pm: I pull it together and read a few books to the two-year-old.

1:00pm:  Kindergartner calls me in. Her iPad has 10% battery left. Interesting considering it literally charged the entire weekend. 

1:02pm: Plug it in.  It immediately runs out of batteries and won’t turn back on.

1:05pm: Quit virtual kindergarten. Again. Definitely for the day and maybe for the year.  

1:06pm: Something must be done. Activate Problem Solving Mode! Do we join a pod? Do I hire a tutor? Maybe I will pull her out of public school and homeschool? Maybe I’ll just buy a kindergarten workbook and some flash cards? Should I read to her for three or four hours each day? Who needs kindergarten anyway? French children don’t learn to read until they are eight or nine, right? Maybe she repeats kindergarten and this year is just practice? How about a gap year? Maybe we should buy and RV and drive to Australia? Should we send her to a private school offering in-person class? To whom shall I write the check?

1:15pm: Break my no-TV-during-the-school-week policy and turn on PBS Kids. Then, it’s back to third grade to help with the All About Me PowerPoint.

1:30pm: Closing Bell! The first day of virtual school is finally over. 

2pm: Nap time for the two-year-old.  Exhale.

2:30pm: 3rd grader practices piano, kindergartner colors beside me, and I tackle my inbox.

3:30pm: My kindergartner tells me I’m her best friend.

4:30pm: Husband calls and says he is coming home early.  This never happens. He must have gotten the Bat Signal.  He offers to take the girls to the park. Clearly I made the right choice when I made him co-signer of those thoughtful first day of school letters.

5pm:  Dad walks in the door. As usual, he receives a war hero’s welcome from his three daughters. His wife is also truly delighted to see him. 

“How was the first day of school?” he asks the 3rd grader. 

“SO awesome.”  she says.

“How was school?” he asks the kindergartner. 

Perfect.”  she says.

4 Responses
  1. Marina permalink
    August 27, 2020

    First of all your blog posts are my favorite! I LOL’ed so hard and I wanted to cry with you. I’ve been thinking about y’all and all the children that are forced to do virtual learning. I can’t even imagine how challenging this is for so many parents, students, and teachers like you said. You GOT this! ???? You’re one of the best mama’s out there and if anyone can handle it with grace, it’s you! I just wish I was in ATL to help y’all out! Miss your sweet family so much! Hang in there! ??
    – Marina

  2. Emily R permalink
    August 28, 2020

    Rich and I cried laughing reading this. Thanks for the comic relief, and we are even participating in virtual learning. And then I proceeded to share this with my entire family. You need a sitcom, or at least to write for a sitcom. Life is funnier be aide of your POV.

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