These days I feel drained of life; each moment seems to drag on to the next. Each of us living, breathing human beings has been compressed into a box on Zoom, and even teachers known to electrify the classroom with their presence are limited by the screen. I’m so tired of this. I think we all are. But even as online learning has made student-teacher interactions feel perfunctory in some ways, perhaps it has also given us a different window into the lives of teachers. Perhaps it has humanized them in ways that were not possible before.
At school, English teacher Mr. V’s name was spoken in hushed tones, a mixture of fear and awe–and with good reason, too. Aside from being known for his rigorous curriculum and his tendency to fire question after question at his students, he kept a crowbar by his classroom door (he later clarified that all teachers were required to have one for school safety). If not for Zoom, I would not have seen the way his face softened (sometimes) when his daughter entered his room to ask if she could watch Peppa Pig. Nor would I have become aware of his various commitments to pick up and drive his children, and his persisting willingness to offer as much time as possible to his students during after-school office hours.
If not for Zoom, I would have not seen studio art teacher Ms. G’s quibbles with her Google Home (“Hey Google, stop”) and her amazement when it updated, so she no longer had to activate it by saying “Hey Google.” Now she simply says “stop.” She looks pleased every time. These idiosyncrasies, while small, remind me that we’re all still human.
If not for Zoom, I would have not seen our new APUSH teacher Mrs. Brooks’s home life, whose background noises range from the sound of her neighbor’s chainsaw cutting down a tree to her younger toddler crying. Had we met at school in person, she might have told me that she sometimes had distracting sounds at home, but I would not have the understanding I do now. It is easier now to understand that teachers, like us, have to juggle between their home and school lives.
During this pandemic, we have been given the opportunity to see our teachers as more than, well, teachers–and understand that they are human beings with their own lives outside of school. Some time from now, we will return to in-person learning. When we do, let us not forget.