What Does Virtual Community Feel Like?

Last night I hosted Teachable Moments' first zoom storytelling event since COVID-19 hit. Our last event was in March, two days before our last day of school before the closures. There were six people in attendance, not counting the bartender and door manager of Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Almost 40 people attended last night, including my parents who haven't been able to attend one of my storytelling events before.

There is so much need and loneliness that we're all feeling. I know I miss the experience of being with my students in the classroom. I miss spending time with friends. I miss hugs hello and goodbye. I'm still sad that I was unable to celebrate Passover with my family in California.

I know my students are struggling with quarantine too. I think some of them haven't left their houses since March! They miss their friends and teachers too.

And still, I think we're beginning to adapt. I won't say that this is a replacement for the in person connections we all crave and need. But I am grateful and impressed by this adaptiveness.
two, person, holding, Hands, Union, Connection, hands together ...
Almost 20 kids join the Google Hangout calls I host for morning meeting and closing circle. We use these calls to check in and share how we're feeling. I have given each day a theme. Thursdays are Thankful Thursdays. During closing circle we share something or someone we're thankful for. Most of us share gratitude for friends, family, or essential workers. Even though we're staring into computer screens, I feel connected to my third graders and my co-workers who join the call. It's an imperfect substitute, but it's definitely better than complete isolation.

On my Teachable Moments Zoom call and my Google Hangouts today I felt emotional. I felt an emotional connection too. I felt like I could feel the feelings of the other human beings on the call. We made space for silence on Wednesday night as we thought about George Floyd and all the other losses we've experienced. The conversation about thankfulness, as well as a conversation about "scary news" during morning circle, made me feel connected with my third graders. We are separated physically, but we're not completely disconnected from one another.

It's unclear how long this will go on. I try not to think about it too much. But it seems possible if not likely that remote learning will continue into September.

I can't imagine what the first days of school will look like and feel like via Google Classroom. I don't want to imagine it.

But if it is necessary, I know that I'll need to draw from the experiences of these past months. I'll need to draw on a whole lot of ingenuity as well. I know that we can all adapt. We have been finding ways to get our emotional needs met as best we can. I think it is possible for us to be in community, even when we're not together. Something about that feels sad and beautiful to me at the same time.


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