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‘School’ begins, Rebekah in the Keys takes on a new cause in CoronaEra

96% of students attend distance learning class on first day

My classroom for the duration of distance learning is in my recording-studio-turned-home office.

Coronalog Islandate: Sunday, April 5

Wednesday was the first day of distance learning for our students. We had about 96% of students attend at least one of their new virtual classes, we were told in a debriefing via Skype by our principal. 

For me, it was pretty simple, although it required a lot of work. Like figuring out what I was supposed to do. I had completed the 12-hour teacher training (12 “football” hours, which means something like 65 real hours), and I learned that I could just keep doing what I’ve been doing in class except now, my students had a mute button. 

Seriously, I learned about some apps and platforms that would help me implement my lessons. So I revamped my class website to include a Daily Agenda for class instructions then updated the site with other resources we’d be using. 

On the first day, the students had to just log into my virtual classroom, which they had been members of since last August, watch a video message I had recorded, be sure they were on my teacher/student text message system, and complete a questionnaire. Easy peasy. I just wanted to make sure everyone was able to continue doing from home what we had done at school all year. 

My new bilingual support person, Vanessa, called parents of students who didn’t do the assignment. By 3:00, we only had several per class who had disappeared mysteriously into the Corona Zone. Internet access had been a huge problem Wednesday and Thursday. Students who didn’t have home computers had signed them out of the school, but getting Internet was tricky. If they hadn’t had wifi before, they could get it for free for two months from a service provider. Except that it took an average of two hours to reach someone to set it up. Then even after that, it was slow due to the overwhelming demand for education. (Again, I find myself stringing together words that I never thought would appear in the same sentence.)

On Thursday, my class held a Google Meet, which is similar to a Skype. I recorded it for those who missed it. Most were able to access it, even if they didn’t have audio on their end. They just listened, and that was fine. 

I explained the journal assignment – write about your experiences in the past few weeks then submit it to our virtual class. I didn’t make it due until Friday, officially a day off, because I didn’t want the students to stress over it. Now was really a good time to enjoy writing. To express themselves however they wanted to (with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, of course), and to write for voice and style instead of for a state test or just another required assignment. 

I read the journals submitted on Thursday. Then on Friday, I read the journals submitted on Friday. I had never been so intrigued with the psychology of their writing. Their emotions ranged from calm to bored to scared to appreciative to anxious to lonely to happy to humorous to grateful to serious. Some of them went through the entire gamete of emotions in 100 words. I responded to each and every one of them with a swollen heart. 

* * *

Just like that, Jim went from a side dish to main course in the advertising industry.

On Friday, Jim got his job back. He had been working on contract for Florida Keys Media since he got laid off two weeks before, but now he was back to his original salary. 

He had gotten a call from the owner of his company. She had informed him that the stimulus money had come through from the U.S. government. 

People were beginning to embrace the fact that advertising and media has now changed forever. And Jim is one of the top digital marketers in the world. Just like that, Jim went from a side dish to main course in the advertising industry. Just like that, while millions of sets of eyes had nothing to do but quadruple their daily screen time, he became the most valuable type of marketer  on the planet. 

At least, until the stimulus package ran out. At most, forever. 

* * *

Yesterday my eyes popped open before the first light of day. I had an idea!

I wandered around the house waiting for Jim to wake up. At 11:30, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I went back into the bedroom and jumped on the bed. 

“Wake up!” I said. “I have an idea!”

Waking up Jim is not something I have ever done on purpose. I like for him to sleep late. I’m a morning dove, and he’s a night owl. We love each other, but that’s our time apart. 

Then I proceeded to tell him about my idea to revamp my Rebekah in the Keys website and start making new videos of Skypes with officials, business owners, and every day people about their CoronaLife experiences. Instead of interviewing them in person, it would be a recorded Skype or a Zoom call. Then Jim could edit the video and post it to the Rebekah in the Keys YouTube Channel and website, which we would revamp as the first video newspaper that I personally know exists. We could be keeping our beloved community connected while helping businesses and political candidates revise their marketing strategy for this new BusinessScape. 

Jim loved it. I made us Juevo Bunny Rancheros, then he got to work. Eight hours later, my website looked more amazing that I had imagined. Jim created my new Rebekah in the Keys logo, designed the layout, and by the time I had finished my home gym YouTube yoga class and laid out in the sun for a few hours to get a good base for a killer suntan, he had even uploaded some videos from my YouTube Channel. I spent a few hours uploading the rest after he showed me how. 

Then I had another idea… 

“Jim, can I post my journals here, too?” 

Thus, CoronaBlog became public.

I hope people enjoy reading my innermost thoughts. I know everyone is going through their own CoronaStory. However, not everyone is a writer, and the epic Corona Memes are keeping most of us busy.

I hope this blog serves as a snapshot of thoughts of one person in this unique time in human history. I hope people (including my students) are inspired while reading it. I hope that it encourages reading and writing in a world that has mostly lost its interest in such things. 

But whatever your reason might be for reading CoronaBlog, welcome to my head.