The coronavirus has changed our world dramatically. Teachers are showing us how to adapt.

It’s been impressive to watch how lessons — and children — are being managed. | Essay
The author’s third-grader on her first day of virtual school.
The author’s third-grader on her first day of virtual school. [ Kristen Hare ]
Published April 20, 2020|Updated April 20, 2020

Weeks ago, my 9-year-old sat in her white, fuzzy chair at the old desk my husband lugged up to the guest room for her “first day” of school in our strange new normal.

She’d crumbled into tears the day before, unable to imagine what third grade would look like without the four walls of her classroom, the warm but firm presence of her teacher, the routines, the friends, the lunchroom, the recess.

I worried, too, but for different reasons.

I’ve worked remotely since my 12-year-old was born. But I’ve never done it with two children in virtual school and a husband who’s not used to the quiet of a corner bedroom office.

My kids go to a Hillsborough County charter school, and the Monday after spring break we got a look at the platform they’d use for virtual learning. One day later, their teachers began.

It was ... about what you’d expect if you’ve ever FaceTimed or Skyped with a child. I watched third- and sixth-graders plastering the platform with emojis, muting teachers and discovering the joy of posting that perfect GIF. No one knew how to mute their own mics. Everyone spoke at once. Some of the assignments didn’t open or required other technology to access. Computers froze. My kids stayed in their PJs. I tried to work.

And the teachers — at least on camera and in the group chats — gently reminded everyone that we’ll figure this out together.

That was Tuesday. By Wednesday, they started to do just that. They disabled chat. They set up rules. They broke classes into smaller groups. They made lessons on online etiquette. And they did something that so many of us are regularly unable to do: They adapted quickly.

They’ve continued doing so ever since — extending due dates, cutting down projects and adjusting expectations for kids who are overwhelmed not just by online learning, but by life in social isolation.

You might see the sweet Facebook videos of teachers driving through school neighborhoods, waving, holding signs, cheering their students on. Those are acts of love. But so is what America’s educators are doing behind the scenes right now.

It takes journalists — I know because I’m one of them and covering them is my whole beat at the Poynter Institute — months of intense training to shift publishing platforms. It takes most of us weeks to find our way around our phones when they auto update and move stuff around. Even Facebook is trying to get us to try “the new Facebook.” That “not now” button got a sharp click from me.

What teachers are doing now isn’t just navigating new technology. They’re changing nearly everything about how they work.

I come from a family of teachers, and they regularly adjust to the whims of politicians and school boards and crazy testing demands. (Not to mention how they deftly deal with parents.)

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Right now, though, teachers are working from their own homes and with their own children, for kids in families with resources and without. They’re doing it with overloaded systems, slow Wi-Fi and glitchy technology. But I see them finding new ways to share, teach and fulfill their mission. They might be frustrated, scared or exhausted, but unlike a lot of us, they aren’t showing it.

Now, every weekday, my 9-year-old goes to school at home, perched in her white, fuzzy chair. She still cries frequently. I do, too. Almost nothing in her life is like what it was just a few weeks ago, except she has Mom and Dad, her big brother and her teachers.

Every day from my home office down the hall, I hear their voices over her iPad, and it’s a thread of normalcy in the strangest of times.

She knows our teachers work hard and don’t make nearly enough, but she can’t begin to understand just how much they’re doing. We can, though.

If you know a teacher, thank them.

Contact Kristen Hare at