How to survive your kid's Zoom school sessions

My big kids are each doing their learning online these days, and so far, it’s been pretty wild. I use the word “wild” because there’s another very bad word I can’t use here, but it rhymes with “nit crow” and I’ll have to pay the swear jar if I say it. Master Eight had his first Zoom conference with his class today, and it was a real nit crow. I know this because I kept dashing into the room to help him find the assignments the teacher was talking about, or remind him where the mute button was located, or tilt the screen so the teacher could see his whole face and not just his forehead.

The class of 20-something kids had been told ahead of time to please mute themselves when the teacher was talking, but clearly only half of them had got the message, because the entire Zoom session was punctuated by random background noises like siblings crying for food, parents on the phone, microwaves beeping, TVs blaring, and one poor dad saying, quite loudly, that he REALLY needed his COFFEE. One kid was using a filter that made his face look like a creepy skull. One kid kept holding things up to cover his camera — the TV remote, his fingers, a hair dryer, a pencil eraser. One kid kept turning his camera to show what his pet was doing, and interrupting whatever the teacher was saying by trilling loudly, “Look what Fluffy is doing now!” Repeat ad infinitum.

The teacher decided to break the kids into groups for some discussion, which I didn’t even know you could do on a Zoom call. She did this, and suddenly my son was in a “breakout room” with five other kids and, unlike the previous half hour, they all just sat there and looked at each other on the screen, saying nothing. One kid picked his nose. The teacher popped in occasionally to ask how their discussion was going, and the kids mutely gave her a thumbs-up and continued to say nothing. After a few minutes a countdown came on the screen telling the kids that the breakout session would be ending in 60 seconds and then they all started to count down out loud, each of them slightly out of sync. For the whole 60 seconds.

Then she gave the kids a five-minute break and my son dashed for the fridge for a snack, only I’m not sure if his teacher was using an actual timer because it seemed like way less than five minutes when she said, “Okay, it’s time to come back now!” and my son had to leave a cracker half-eaten on his plate. He couldn’t focus on anything with that half-cracker laying uneaten just out of his reach, so I told him to just stick his head below the camera and chomp it, fast. He did. Unfortunately, some of the other kids were eating LOUDLY with their mutes off so the noise of a bunch of kids chewing like cows was added to the background soundscape.

The teacher kept kindly and encouragingly telling the kids how well they were managing themselves, and patiently answering their repeated questions about things she had literally just told them two seconds beforehand, and letting them share things with the class, like, “Yesterday I took a walk and then the day before that I took a walk and then the day before that I also took a walk” and “I like Minecraft” and “My dad REALLY needs his COFFEE right now.”

At the end of the session, the teacher told the children that unfortunately, there wouldn’t be a class Zoom conference tomorrow because there’s a teacher conference at the same time, so she would see them on Friday morning instead. And I swear to you, I actually raised up my arms and said “THANK GOD!” because I didn’t think I would survive being in the same house as another one of his class Zoom calls.

So I think my best advice for surviving your kid’s Zoom school sessions is to just pretend your computer is broken so you don’t have to do them. Because by the end of that hour-and-a-half nit crow, my nerves were shot, my blood pressure was sky-high, and my kid was sliding off his chair and onto the floor like he’d spontaneously melted into a puddle of exhaustion. We’re both shattered. We are not cut out for Zoom schooling.

Hats off to teachers, because if I was my kid’s teacher, I would have got off that Zoom call and gone straight to the emergency chocolate stash. My own emergency chocolate stash isn’t gonna last until his next Zoom call on Friday.

Katherine Granich

Editor, Tots to Teens

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