Deep understanding comes from first-hand experience and stepping out from behind our desks. That includes me, as I lead Follett School Solutions and strive to always understand our customers’ needs. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been talking to district leaders, librarians, and teachers about the challenges and opportunities they face. On a recent Illinois morning, third-grade teacher Julie Scroggins invited me to shadow her as she lives what we read and hear about: the reality of a teacher’s day during remote learning in a pandemic.
Each morning at 8 a.m., on the West side of Rockford, Illinois, Julie hopes to see all 26 of her third-grade students’ faces. On a good day, 22 of them boot up their Google Chromebooks and log on to Zoom for the first lesson of the day. About half of her 9- and 10-year-old students woke themselves up this morning for a day of remote learning.
Julie teaches from her empty classroom in the second-largest city in Illinois, known for its blue-collar, manufacturing economy that has struggled for decades. While the neighborhood school is open for in-person learning, the decision for in-person or remote is up to each family. All of Julie’s students are remote and have been since last March, when the pandemic shut down every school in the country.
Julie’s students join class from whatever semi-private, quiet space they can find. It may be their bedroom, the kitchen table, even a closet. She greets each one as their faces pop up on the Brady Bunch-style screen, asks them how their morning is going, and whether mom or dad is home today. The answers vary.
On any given day, chatter among these students includes how they are going to get to the convenience store down the road to buy milk because they don’t want to walk through the snow and their bike tire is flat. One student typically joins Zoom class wrapped in a blanket on Fridays because it’s laundry day and he doesn’t have enough shirts to get through the week. On this particular Friday, Julie was especially concerned about the health and safety of her students going into a three-day weekend.