I never wanted to be a YouTuber… and I still don’t. Yet, 2020 has played a dirty trick on me! The school where I teach is 100% virtual for at least the first quarter… possibly even longer. That means I must create at least 30 video lessons a week. Just me, alone in my classroom, talking to a camera lens, surrounded by empty chairs, trying to be engaging, informative, cute, and clever. It’s soul sucking. There are people under the impression that virtual teachers are living their best lives… sitting around doing very little, eating snacks in our jammies. I can assure you, that is not remotely the case at all.
I believe I am working harder now than I have ever worked in my entire life… for very little reward. Each day, I get up and go to school, dressed for work. I sit alone in my room for the majority of the day, rewriting my entire curriculum to work in a digital format. (I teach choir… so let me tell you how cool it is to turn a performance class into an imaginary class.) I create digital assessments and assignments. I answer hundreds of emails from students who need reassurance that they are on the right track. I send hundreds more, reminding students to log in and get busy. I create hard copies of everything and shift files into folders to be loaded on flash drives for the students who have no internet access. The second I feel as if I might be close to catching up, something else gets added to my plate. And then there’s the videos… 10-20 minutes per class per day, plus editing time. At least one digital platform we are supposed to use crashes every day, due to the sheer volume of people using it. And then, somewhere in there I have to find time to GRADE all of the work that has been assigned. All of this, while having one 25 minute Google Meet a week with my students… if they even show up.
Here are some other things I have observed while being YouTube Teacher Lady…
- I say “you guys” entirely too much. Watching myself on camera has made me keenly aware of all of the words and phrases I use too often. This makes me feel like I need to start videos over entirely too often. This adds a lot more time to video creation.
- One of my eyeballs seems to always be looking off camera. (Jennifer shakes fist at lazy eye… “Damn you, stinking eyeball!”)
- Sometimes when I talk, I sound like a cartoon character. I wish that I could use this as a lucrative career skill to begin a job at Disney.
- My piano bench is excessively squeaky. For some reason the video seems to magnify the sound of its groaning beneath my rubenesque frame. (I fear one day I will make a glorious tumble to the floor.)
- Forgetting a step in the system takes hours to go back and correct. My cute little checklist I have created grows longer every day as I remember other steps in the process.
- My office feels a bit like a fish tank. I have a big window, covered in slime from the anti-Covid fogger that I can stare out, blandly, during the day. It’s pretty lonely swimming by myself in there… but once in a while a colleague comes by to wave at me, or feed me a snack. (Thanks for the Ding Dongs, Christopher.)
- I photograph better than I look on video. At least there, I know my angles.
- Apparently being virtual means that you are available to answer questions twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. “You are demanding help with homework on Sunday at 3:45 AM? Sure, let me get right on that.”
Yeah, I’m thriving! I swear, if I worked 24 hours a day, it would not be enough. All of the things I love about teaching… the human interaction, making music together, the chance to change lives, the laughter, the looks on students’ faces when they finally get it, the meaningful conversations… all of that is gone. All I am left with right now is the stuff that is not so great. (And heaven forbid… don’t write anything in your planner or try to make it look cute… because it WILL change in a day or two!)
Perhaps you are tired of listening to me whine. Perhaps you are a teacher doing digital life and are doing just fine. (Honestly, it seems like I am the only one struggling this much sometimes.) I just know that if things continue as they are for much longer, I will have to walk away and find a job doing something else.