Q1, Virtually (in)Complete

I’d like to announce the nearly successful completion of our first virtual learning marking period. Nearly? Yes. Starting with the first fairly critical piece of missed information – in that the end of the first five-ish weeks did NOT, in fact, mark the release of Interim grades. For those of you who haven’t had kids in school in some time – Interims are the mid-quarter-check-in grades. These allow parents the chance to start riding their children earlier than in previous lifetimes when parents did not see grades until the actual marking period ended. Interims, I thought, are just dumb. With the unlimited ways for parents to connect to their kids’ grades and teachers – if you don’t know what’s going on at every second of the day you, well, you probably have a better life with more things to fulfill yourself it than I do. I do start every school year repeating to myself This year, I won’t stalk Powerschool but that typically goes out the window six minutes into the first day.

Except this is the year. This year, I have mostly kept that promise. Sort of. I actually forgot to make it to myself ~ along with forgetting that school started, though my child is sitting in his faux classroom a room away three days each week. It’s a combination of my quarantine-obtained attitude of not sweating the small stuff and being mentally overwhelmed with all the Mom stuff (oh, and job stuff and the other kid went to college in a pandemic stuff and my MIL is a whack-a-doodle stuff and Rich is turning fifty stuff and, and, and…). It’s fine that my kid’s education has dropped a bit of the radar, right? Awkwardly, it did not register to any member of the McGillicutty household that what is typical an Interim Report Cards reporting day, would actually be a real report card reporting day. I mean, I’m not taking high school math or anything (also, I’m not 100% sure if my child is or not), but it does make sense that if we are doing two semesters this year rather than four quarters – yeah, 1/4 of a semester would theoretically be a report card. Maybe that’s common core. I don’t know.

Zack, who has never gotten a grade lower than an A on any of his report cards, also missed that memo. He rounded the turn with a couple low B’s at the same time we all realized – oh, nelly, this actually counts. Whoops. Zack loved his streak of A’s. LOVED IT. We loved that he loved it and that it was important to him and that he took pride in it. Did I mentioned the failure of any of us to take that first six weeks as anything more than a settling in period may have helped him tank it (in his eyes)? Double Whoops. I suppose any other year we would have been laying down a plethora of gauntlets and consequences following hours of discussion. This year? Shrug. It sucks. But it’s also a whonky way to start your high school life – stuck at home, staring at teachers you’ve never heard of on perhaps the smallest laptop monitor that public school money could buy. Add to that parents who forget you are trying to listen to lectures while they yell messages of love across the house in addition dogs yelling messages of love to the incoming Amazon trucks.

Yeah. Well, we’re still working out the kinks.

But I’ve started with the end. Let’s go back to the beginning.

Or at least a quick summary for all of you wondering if anybody out there is handling virtual school worse than you are.

  • I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had to gently urge Zack from his slumber. Gently. By opening his door and screaming Zack!! With my own eyes firmly closed because he’s a fourteen year old man child.
  • Also have stopped tracking the numerous conversations about be downstairs by 8:30am to give yourself time to wake up before virtual PE. Which actually sounds like a horrible thing to start every on-camera school day with and I’m zero percent sure why the state even kept it in this year’s curriculum. Imagine being that teacher. Bueller?
  • We no longer have breakfast before school. Most important meal of the day? That’s for morning people. Yeah, you – take my steel cut oats while I bury my head under the pillow.
  • We cherish the days Zack is not schooling here – not because we don’t like him to be here, but because the low-level pressure of being in charge is transferred to whichever family he is visiting that day. I’ve no doubt those parents feel the same when their children are visiting our pretend school.
  • The first week was full of great lunches, prepared with a 12:05pm finish to coincide with Zack’s 12:05pm thirty minute lunch break. The idea was to enable him maximum time away from the screen. Now the idea is oh, man, do they still get lunch breaks? I keep forgetting. Except when there are three boys here, then they are served something semi-appreciated and usually followed by all three making a Ramen supplement. PS, according to the grumbling of my last back porch lunch delivery, ice cream sandwiches are so 2019.
  • Did I mention virtual phys ed? Or that I may or may not have caught my child swinging his phone back and forth in an effort to get his steps in? While he was firmly planted in his seat? Or that I started to say that’s not going to cut it, but instead slowly backed out of the room so I could release myself of responsibility? Sadly, Rich is onto us there. He’s taken over all school exercise – including the ROTC student who was caught getting lapped by our twenty pound cat on the treadmill.
  • All three families have implemented varying degrees of consequences based on teacher feedback of missed assignments, cameras turned off that should be on, onscreen pranks and, oh – yes, that thing where our pod was responsible for the very first instance of Hanover Online School Zoom hacking. We strive to be number one! Check! Go OWLS! Typically, when the principal calls, it’s to tell me how amazing Zack is. Typically, the conversation doesn’t start with so we’ve got a problem that we tracked to Zack’s ip address. Yes, we did go for the old parental Well, doesn’t that just show how astute he is? She disagreed. We then spend two days trying to suss out the truth, consulting other parents, talking to counselors and IT folks – eventually nailing down the what-really-happened’s. Doesn’t that show how astute our pod, as a whole, is?
  • In real high school, for…well, forever, in our district, the kids take their first stab at the PSAT mid-October in their 9th grade English class. It’s awesome. Parents don’t have to remember to sign their kids up, send in any checks, buy a calculator – nothing. Most times, I suspect it’s an event that many parents aren’t even aware of. Which is why I happily signed Zack up weeks ago, proudly noting that it was different for the virtuals. Bummer that it also turned out that the virtuals would have to take it off school hours. No biggie. On a Saturday. Boo. At 7:30am. Wait, now what?? Do we get an extra sleep in day next week? Just wondering.

I suppose by the mid-point we’ll have this all figured out. Right? Please? Of course, as I’m writing this I’m realizing that I already have lost track of how many weeks have passed since those Fake Interims/Real Report Cards came out. Which means I have no idea how deep into the next quarter we are or when, for that matter, the halfway point of the semester is. I do know that we are up to daily conversations about grades – trying not to show any panic while trying to get the kids to maybe get it in gear before that next round comes. It is tricky – balancing the wow, this is just a really weird way to be in school sympathy with the wow, this actually still counts and you’ve got to get invested speeches. Just today, after stripping Zack of all distractions (second laptop, phone), suggesting to him that perhaps only having his school laptop in front of him would help him stay focused, I walked by to see him playing his Nintendo under his desk. GAH!!! We were on a break! he said, circa Ross & Rachel, season three.

Yeah, seen that episode, buddy.

It doesn’t end well for you.

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