Of all the things I haven't expected in my life, I didn't expect that I'd need to retake second grade. But, thanks to COVID-19, here we are. Here are many of us, back to thinking we escaped worksheets and algebra, only to be pulled back in like an old and tired Michael Corleone in his kitchen.
I remember my first go-around with the second grade, almost 30 years ago. I remember friends. I remember first crushes. I remember being exasperated with the amount of busy work that we did, culminating in a refusal to partake in making a hand-shaped cardboard turkey. The thought still peeves me.
In March, when the bottom dropped out of schooling for my daughter, we made do with her morning Zoom calls. She used my home office, seeing her familiar classmates in small little rectangles on a screen, and came out looking a little dejected. Fall will be better, I assured her. I suspected in May that wouldn't be the case and stopped saying that.
Honestly, I had been slightly ignoring the start date of school creeping up, but about three weeks ago, I received a phone call that I let go to voicemail as I worked. It turned out there was a spot open in a school to which we applied for our daughter during the Before Times. The school had held a lottery back in March. Did we still want her to attend?
I quickly consulted with my husband. Yes, we did. "Great, they said; we're in our second week of classes, so let me send you the teacher email, her new logins, and you'll get codes for getting online." OK, then. Suddenly, all the schooling was in our laps.
Yet, there wasn't just one online system. It wasn't just Zoom and uploading shots of worksheets to a mobile app previously used for reminding me about the monthly school calendar. It was two completely different systems used congruently, one for assignment management and one for doing the assignments — sometimes. I think. I still haven't figured that out completely.
With my work, there was a combination of slowly digging out of the quarantine depression and someone else's retirement that hefted more responsibility on my shoulders. I started making a dedicated To Do list to wrap my mind around everything.
On the same day, I got another call offering my son a spot in pre-K. Did we want it? Both schools had already extended their in-person start dates and assured us that if we didn't feel comfortable and we wanted to stay in remote learning for a while longer, our kids wouldn't lose their spots. Deep breaths for me. Yes, we can figure this all out; I can figure this all out. If quarantine toxic positivity Instagram posts tell me anything, it's all about To Do lists. Maybe color-coded ones would be needed.
The following week, after a few emails back and forth with my daughter's new second grade teacher in which we promised we'd catch up and set up a learning area complete with U.S. and state flags, I received very polite emails from another teacher, her coach. My daughter had missing assignments. Were we registered with her online class system?
It might have been the 30 years — I don't know. But in a flood of horror, I did more scrolling. She didn't just have one second grade teacher; she had an art teacher, a music teacher and a coach. All with worksheets or activities. All of whom skipped between online programs where we uploaded material, watched videos and uploaded work. And the Zoom links and groups kept coming, none of which my kiddo can do alone.
I came out of my office and put my head down on the kitchen table for a few minutes. More deep breathing. More pushing away the word anxiety mantra of how this was "unsustainable."
Check on your friends with Zoom-age kids. They're not going to be OK soon. They're starting to be knee-deep in an unsustainable lifestyle, complete with one or more eye-rolling mini co-workers stealing their computer and snacks. There are no water coolers for gossip. There are no happy hours. There will, however, be plenty of To Do lists with the hope that we can pull it off as we are pulled back in.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at [email protected] To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.