My first online class: it was weird. It was done by demand: two kids in one class who wanted to just see their classmates and me. I'd read all about Zoom etiquette, but no muting was necessary. When I asked How are you really? twenty of us just looked at each other for a very long silence. There was nodding and looking down. None of us wanted to share much. They just wanted to get down to business. Ask questions. I wanted to start with a poem, but I wasn't sure they had the fortitude for it.
There was a groove. They raised their hands, they clarified, they wondered, they wanted to know what was going to happen to their third-quarter averages. I had no answer for this.
And when would we be going back?
I had no answer for that. I wish I knew.
Our eleven year-old daughter didn't want me to read with her tonight. She wanted to talk about how everything sucks.
It sucks that we can't hug grandparents when we're lucky enough to have grandparents who, luckily, live nearby to hug. We don't know when we get to go back to school and see our friends and the teachers who love us. We can go outside, but we have to sidestep every other person and wave and not breathe the same air.
It sucks that this is when I could really use social media but you won't let me get SnapChat or Insta.
It sucks that we get time off from school because people are dying.
I am thinking about my students for whom home is a terrible place to be. A dangerous place or a too-lonely place. A place where bad choices seem like good escapes and no one will notice.
And what about homeless people? she continued. What happens to them? They can't even go anywhere to get anything. Everywhere is closed. We can't even do anything to help anyone because we can't go anywhere and we can't touch anything or anyone.
The only response I had to this: make art. Once, when I felt despondent about the state of the world (it wasn't that long ago), a trusted colleague gave me this advice.
Paint, sing, make a script. Make a song. Play the hell out of your instrument.
Share it. Art makes people feel not alone.
Her beautiful eyes sparkled a little. I'm going to make a huge rainbow on the driveway tomorrow. If it's not raining. Which would suck.
We'll start our week with a challenge: finding art in unusual places. Italian children who put rainbow drawings in windows to spread hope and cheer among despondency and despair made such an impact, drew so much collective hope, that now kids here are doing it too.
We'll look for little surprises.
And we'll make some, too.
I'll start our next online classes with poems.