“What is 21 times 18?” I ask.
“348,” Fi replies.
“No, but you are close.” And together we multiply all of the numbers in order to come up with the answer of “378”. The rest of the walk, she answers multiplication questions of double digit times double digit and triple digit times single digit. She’s got her finger flying through the air making numbers, and she is talking out each step.
Just minutes before (about a block and a half into our walk), she asked, “What’s wrong, Dad? Why are you so quiet?”
I just told her that I had a lot on my mind, but what I would have told her if she wasn’t ten years old is that the last few days have been mentally draining. As a schoolteacher, I walk through my classroom door confident that I can teach my sixth grade community of students all that they need to know about science, reading, and writing. As a school board member, I walk (drive/run) around my community confident that I have the community in mind with each and every decision that I make. Over the past few days, all of this has been challenged.
Can I teach my students from a distance and still do it showing them the enthusiasm for learning (and teaching)? I don’t want to let them down. Am I making the best possible decisions for my beloved community? I don’t want to let them down. I’ve taken dozens of phone calls, texts, and emails from parents in my school community and my home community. It seems that we are working together, but there are so many unknowns (What will parents do with their kids when they go to work? How will the kids that need breakfast and lunch get it? What about the kids that need the teacher to motivate them to learn? What will they do?). All of these unknowns are swirling around in my head, and they do not make me feel confident. This is the unknown for all of us, but at the same time, we want to be our best selves for our students and our community.
So, as Fi answered the last division question (yes, we moved onto division), I grabbed her hand and we walked the last half of the block with smiles on our faces. Her smile came from going seven for eight with the math questions, and my smile came from knowing that I, at least, have her on my side. Maybe there is a positive to all of this after all – it means more time with family, and there is nothing wrong with that.