I am not a BITMOJI

I am starting to feel the stress of “Dynamic Online “Learning.”  I put “Learning” in quotes because I don’t know what “Learning” is happening.  Calm down purists!  I am being sarcastic.  I got your jargon:  summative / formative … I got it.  Yes.  Learning is happening.. 

We just completed three days of Professional Development using “Distance “Learning.”  All via zoom.

On Thursday, when we got done at 3:00pm, I was whipped.  I mean … drained.  I thought, “this is what it is going to be like for the next 18 weeks?”  I then thought, “What about our students?  What the hell are they going to feel at the end of every day?”  

And by God, I felt the same way at the end of the day Friday and now … today!  I get home and I am just numb.  I never wanted to have a job in tech!  I never wanted to have a job in a cubicle, which is how I feel in my band room / band room office is.  It’s a lovely cubicle.   Lots of space.  Better than your average cubicle.  

Something else today got me thinking because I saw it in action.  There are the teachers who have children at home!  Duh.  Watching those teachers  having to keep their children busy as they are teaching your children.  How is that gonna feel come September?  I would imagine = Exhausting!  Wow!  

I am not going to “blame” our district or site leadership for my broken spirit or heart.  I will take that responsibility.  If I have to hear one more time, “Don’t beat yourself up” from the leadership or the tech savvy folks, I will “virtually-scream!!!!!”  

I am a NON-FICTION person.  I don’t enjoy fiction.  I have no idea why Idislike fiction so much.  Truly.  The only fiction I read by choice (not assigned in school) is “Shoeless Joe” because the movie “Field of Dreams” is based on that book and I love the movie.  Very good book!  So, when I hear “virtual learning” I go to “fiction.”  This is SCIENCE FICTION!!  aaaaaaaargh!!!!  

Bitmoji?  A cartoon of me?  SCREEEEEAM.  

A cute cartoon of a classroom?  SCREEEEEEAM

Backgrounds on my Zoom?  SCREEEEEEEAM

I think  of all the “community building.”  Even though I am still at a loss of how I can see on Zoom all thirty-four students in Guitar Class or the Sixty-Five students in Band!!  Part of the deal is seeing folks.  The ice breakers the students are going to have to endure in every flippin class.  Again, good intentions.  Everyday we are going to start with community building.  Did y’all do that before this semester?  You did… Cool. Keep it up.  If this is new for you … do your best.  It takes practice and PLEASE remember – there is a chance our students are going to have 20 “how are you doing?” questions a week!!  

That would be the next thing… Why am I going to add or do anything that wasn’t part of my class prior to this year?  We already have had marching taken away from the Marching Band class.  That is a major change to a class.  My students chose the class to play their instruments and to march.  I see fellow band directors now adding components that never had anything to do with marching band.  I am not looking at filling in that hole just with anything.  Again, my “non-fiction spirit.”  

I believe part of the problem with all of this is the stage of life I am in.  I am 54 years old.  This is the start of my 31st year teaching high school music.  I look at all this “virtual” learning and say, “How do I fit?  This isn’t me.”   I empathize with the disenfranchised students on our campus.  I understand their pain.  

Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t the first time I have felt this way as a high school music teacher.  When No Child Left Behind came out and we were doing STAR TESTING, I thought, “Uh-oh!  No questions about the music class.  Are we going to survive START TESTING?”  We did.  “The Vid?”  Gonna be a bit tougher.  

When people tell those who are not part of the culture, “it’s gonna be okay.”  Really?  How do you know?  

So, now I have to take my own medicine.  I am on a mission to get people, including me to really “lean-in”  (cool – hip phrase … “lean-in” — heard that phrase several times these last three workdays) on my “E-Triangle.”   

  • Left Side of the “E-Triangle” – Respect 
  • Right Side of the “E-Triangle” – Responsible 
  • Foundation of the “E-Triangle” – Discipline 
  • Inside the “E-Triangle” – Integrity. Ethics. Faith. 

In the end, my philosophy works:

                Out of RESPECT for yourself, you will accept RESPONSIBILITY for all of your choices and that will take self-DISCIPLINE.  And to help your spirit / mental being, you MUST have INTEGRITY (be true to yourself) ETHICS (keep commitments) and practice some sense of FAITH.  

Right now, I am in a funk.  Really… I am.  

I will work my way through it.  I will do what I can for my students with love in my heart.  So what if I don’t have the cute Bitmoji of me or my virtual classroom?  That’s not me (integrity – be true to yourself).  

I need to control what I can and understand what I can’t control.  I can control my choices / feelings.  I can’t control people’s choices, including the choice to believe “Dynamic Online Learning” is the “best” response to THE VID. 

Okay … it’s 6:49pm… I want to chill.  Tomorrow, I will be on the computer for another four-to-six hours.  No need to add more screen time tonight. 

God bless all of us (teachers (all adults that make a campus come alive) / students / parents) as we face the best of the worse situation = AVERAGE.  None of us want the “Average Steak” on a menu.  None of us want an “Average Education.”  There I go again … Mr. Non-Fiction.  Sorry.  





2 thoughts on “I am not a BITMOJI”

  1. Frith Stevenson

    Hi Paul,
    In regards to your “I am not a Bitmoji” post…

    I was in a similar foul mood regarding online “learning” 8 weeks ago. I sat on the Pity Pot being irritated, pissed off, overwhelmed and frustrated with the looming situation of teaching 7th grade English, for credit recovery summer school, 100% online. I was never going to meet these kids face to face and they had already failed English once. I felt it was an impossible mission and I was lacking the know-how (technology). Online isn’t me.

    But then I made a shift.

    I RESPECTED my talents and expertise. I knew my strength was connecting with kids. Connections matter.

    I took RESPONSIBILITY for what I didn’t know (technology) and what I could not change (this sucks AND it is temporary) and relied on my DISCIPLINE to find the knowledge and training so I could have FAITH in my abilities to bring INTEGRITY to my online teaching and follow my commitment to what is important.

    I refuse to add more to my online “teaching.” I refuse to spend my time “creating content” to entertain. I’m finding my most important content and making sure I figure out how to deliver it really well with the tools I have. I’m not adding more to my dinner plate, I’m eating the same meal with the tools that I have. Instead of a knife, fork, and spoon I’ve been handed a hammer and a squeegee. It sucks. It’s hard. But I can do hard things, for awhile. What is important is that I teach the kids how to be better readers and writers while adding value to the people that they are and the people they will become(1). Good teachers always do.

    Kids know that online “learning” sucks but they respect the effort. They respect adults that put in the effort to show up for them, to connect with them and to guide them in times of uncertainty. That is the definition of the word engage-to connect. I am good at engaging. As teachers, that is our strength. We build connections with our students by talking, sharing and listening. Good teachers already do this.

    As for the endless drone of “online community building,” yeah, it can take the form that ends up being forced and staged but, in the end, its goal is to make connections. Some people rely on a script or a game, but good teachers already do it. Every day, every interaction, in an authentic and seamless way. I will do that online, for awhile, because connections matter.

    Lastly, there is a trend of teachers asking for grace from the community and offering apologies for a sub-par school year. I refuse to sink into the best of the worst and the worst of the best. Instead, I have faith in myself and other good teachers, who are disciplined in our responsibilities and committed to what THEY know is important. Because it matters.

    Love ya,
    ( 1-your words, paraphrased from a variety of your posts)

    1. Hello Frith:
      wowowowow!! What a RICH response! My goodness. THANK YOU. This response will not hold a candle to your thoughts.

      So many thoughts that resonate with this “OLD TEACHER.” Needless to say, because I hope my current students (at my current job August 11, 2020) and those attached to my current 8/11/2020 students, I have left a lot “off-the-table.” What I can say is similar to what a Tokay HS parent told me 30 years ago. 30 years ago, when the Tokay HS mom was complaining about all we were doing and how hard it was for her (the mom) to keep-up with the demands of the program, I said, “I understand. It must be hard!” She chewed my ass out!! Spit it on the floor! “You have no idea what I go through!!! How can a 24 year-old understand what I am going through?!” and she went from there.

      NO WHERE DID YOU SAY OR INFER THAT (the Tokay HS) STORY. Your response caused me to think about that time. I am very happy for you that you are not 54 year-old teacher yet (giggle / wink)

      What I am saying is… I am 54 years-old. The amount of time that it would take to learn all the technological stuff doesn’t compute / not at this stage of my career. For gosh sake, I don’t even want to learn / do “Google Classroom.” Honestly, I could never hear “Google” again and I think I would be better. I do believe / KNOW (hope that was in my article) that I need to adjust my attitude. Once I am with the students and we are all in this together … things will improve. I do hope we never settle for this style of education being “THE” way things are going to be. Band? On Zoom? Are ya kidding me?

      To have a Marching Band Class and not do marching?? I don’t even know an analogy for you as an English teacher? An English teacher being told, there are no books available so… no reading this year…. Is that a good analogy. I don’t know.

      Out of the 70 or so BAND students, there are bout 50 who are taking band all year (4×4 block schedule). I asked to switch marching band to spring semester because there are parade competitions / football is supposed to move to spring. Nope… to difficult with the schedule changes. Fair enough. Everything HOWEVER seems to be “too difficult” therefore, what is one more difficult thing? I sat back and let the answer stay. Something teachers tend to do often … “let the answer stay.”

      As I said, I left a lot off the table because, I respect my relationship with my community. I want folks to know that I am not a BITMOJI. I am 54 year-old teacher. I want to be a 54 year-old teacher. I want empathy from others who know this could be my last year teaching and what a way to end a career. I HAVE NOT MADE THAT DECISION YET.

      There are few teachers like me: old; Caucasian; Christian; happy heterosexual MALE; married to same woman for 29 years (longer than many of my colleagues have been alive – giggle); father; GRANDFATHER; believes teachers are teachers – not friends / buddies; leans “Libertarian; expects teenagers to be young-adults and therefore, pay the price for their “stupidity” (as we all are occasionally “stupid”); believes our political beliefs / religious beliefs / gender should NOT be in the classroom; believes education is PARTLY responsible for the actions we see today from our young people; been placed on paid administrative leave only to have had the students admit they “misunderstood” me (didn’t have parent conferences with these students) or the administration “misunderstood” the students… ya get the picture. I am that teacher being asked to be something I never thought I would be.

      Your response is beautiful! One I needed to hear / read and I can not tell you enough how much I appreciate it. You have a beautiful spirit and always have had that beautiful spirit since you were my student 30 years ago!!

      I love ya! Have a great year and again, many THANKS. Truly honored.

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