By Krystia Basil
I hate Teams. Don’t think I’ll ever miss Zoom. Not a fan of Class Dojo, Clever, Seesaw or Sumdog either.
I blergh passwords. One needs intravenous B12 to remember the countless cocktails of alpha-numericals that unlock virtual portal after portal onto platforms that require a 4 year old to ballet her thumb and pointer across a trackpad to communicate. I miss you construction paper and chubby crayon.
When I express thinly veiled incredulity at the level of device dexterity required for my preschooler to complete her online assignments, her teacher – unflappable in the face of the high-strung technologically challenged ‘geriatric’ parent – encourages me to keep at it. “Fine motor skills,” she reminds. When I elevate to open sarcasm, she pivots and suggests I buy a touchscreen tablet for my daughter instead of the Chromebook she currently uses – the Chromebook that we had just purchased from Costco, you know, after standing 6 feet apart in a line that stretched 2 city blocks, masked and heavily breathing for the better part of two hours.
I am not jazzed that my 4 year-old and 6 year-old each have their own laptops. It doesn’t seem right that they get to chill on a couch wrapped up in a fluffy blankie with an ultra-thin, air-light gizmo gadget cradled on an ergonomic pillow, instead of trudging around like pack-mules with bound volumes of rarefied knowledge strapped onto their backs.
I loathe logging in, logging out, downloading, uploading, turning in, raising hands (using no fewer than 3 clicks), muting, unmuting.
I could kill the mute button. Zero luck with it. My kids are always screeching incoherently when unwittingly unmuted or articulating impeccable responses to their teacher’s question just a hair’s breadth before I unmute them.
I have mad respect for the teachers – bringing their game face to an eerily empty classroom echoing with feedback from a couple dozen homes, bravely holding court with their bobbing and weaving students trapped in squares. All while dealing with spotty Wi-Fi, Internet sudden deaths, ethernet comeback, frozen screens, waiting rooms and…parents, like me, who ask them questions like they’re the geek squad.
I’m thrilled to finally be able to see the faces of their art and music teachers – the mysterious Mrs. Wickard-Segilman and the merry Mr. Hofstra. I’m bummed that I don’t get my daily dose of sunshine from the beatific crossing guard Mrs. Molina. I draw the line (ineffectually) at virtual gym, a.k.a. home gym. Tuesdays and Thursdays I‘m scheduled to stink eye the coach from left of laptop for making me wake up at the crack of dawn to clear the living room so my 1st grader can do sun salutations with Jamie the Cosmic Yogi.
I do love watching my lil’ man don his headphones, confidently hit ‘Join Now’ and wave brightly to his teacher, smile shyly at his new classmates. I’m ecstatic when he high fives me after acing number bonds or struts around proudly because he was the teacher’s virtual helper during Mystery Science. I love that I don’t have to wait until the end of the school day to hear secondhand about these precious accomplishments but can stand witness as they unfold. I’m grateful for the ‘video off’ button for when he’s overwhelmed and needs a minute, and a quick hug. I love that he gets to sneak in on his sister’s story-time and relive his pre-school days.
I melt watching my 4 year old put on her thinking cap, her listening ears, fold her little palms together and sit up like a tiny scholar. I am sad when she tries to touch her teacher through the screen, but am in awe when she listens attentively to her classmates, giving a thumbs-up or a quiet clap, waiting patiently for her turn, her 10-second spotlight. I adore watching her freeze dance, do what Simon didn’t say and execute jumping jacks like she stuck her finger into a socket.
I don’t miss painstakingly cutting crusts pre-coffee, but I do miss writing love notes on their lunch napkins.
This was the year I was going to ease back into work. But here I am standing between the living room and dining room watching my children bloom in unexpected ways. I am glad to have them school safely from home. But I regret their loss of these carefree days meant for making life-long friends.
One needs real life recess for such magic.
About the Author:
KRYSTIA BASIL has been a producer in the film & TV industry since 2005. She has worked with PBS, BBC, Animal Planet, The History Channel, and other media organizations to create compelling and relevant media content. In 2015 she co-founded the production company Poplewaca Productions through which she develops scripts and show concepts. She was inspired to write for children after having two of her own. Her first children’s picture book – A Sky Without Lines, about a little boy separated from his family at the border – was published by minediton and released Oct 1st, 2019. Originally from Chennai, India, she’s been trying to figure out being a ‘New Yorker’ for the last 15 years.
Check out her Authors Guild Profile – http://krystia.ag-sites.net/index.htm Linkedin Profile – https://www.linkedin.com/in/krystia-basil-16814729/ and Twitter – @BasilKrystia