I remember one church retreat a long time ago when my sister planned out a performance of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” for us all to participate in. Although I was about seven, I had been performing in my sister’s productions for my whole life. I don’t remember much other than pulling my Beanie Babies across the stage in a wagon and a print out of Jesus glued to a popsicle stick.
In honor of that hazy memory and a thousand other parodies I’m sure you have heard over the years, I now present “The Twelve Days of Christmas: Online Teaching Edition.” Feel free to sing it out loud as you read.
On the twelfth day of online school my students gave to me:
1 Teacher Singing Out Loud
In my days as a camp counselor, I learned that singing instructions helps eight-year-olds to listen to you. While teaching the Sirens section of the Odyssey, I accidentally learned that the same principle holds true for ninth graders. And they can’t seem to let me forget it.
2 Coffee Cups
According to some professional development we had earlier this year, consistency is very important to helping kids feel safe in the classroom. So really, the two cups of coffee I drink in front of the camera daily is for the kids.
3 Popcorn Meals
When one’s whole world consists of four small rooms and small squares on a screen, one is really inspired to become a better cook. My latest speciality is a bag of popcorn doused in one of those little popcorn flavoring bottles. Very nutritious. Very gourmet.
4 Unwritten Exams
Exams loom ever closer. Yet somehow I still spend more time creating elaborate Christmas-themed lesson plans rather than working to design an exam.
5 Games of Thrones
Whispers in the wind hint at the fact that George R.R. Martin may actually release his sixth book next year. Only twelve years after the last one came out. Therefore my evenings must be devoted to following the convoluted storyline all over the land of Westeros, in awe of Martin’s ability to humanize and complicate every last character.
6 Parents Joining
I’ve seen a parent join mid-class to say hi to the other kids. I’ve seen a kid get yelled at for how many missing assignments they have, in front of me. I’ve had a dad interrupt class to ask his daughter if she wanted chicken pot pie for lunch. The lines between home and school are all but imaginary at this point.
7 Deer Blind Meetings
“Wanna see the view from my deer blind, Ms. Boersma? I actually get pretty good Wi-Fi out here.”
8 Students Emailing
I think my next unit might be on how to write an email. There seems to be a sad lack of greetings, grammar, and subject lines. Sometimes my students send me emails where the subject line is their question, and there is no actual content to the email. That’s innovation right there.
9 Backgrounds Changing
“Oh, wow, and Kyle is in space right now. Maybe you can write your short story about being in space, Kyle.”
10 Dogs Interrupting
“Ms. Boersma, my dog is waving at you; why won’t you wave back?” Doesn’t matter to them that I am in the midst of reading out loud. So I wave back.
11 Assignments Missing
The amount of missing assignments a single student can rack up during remote learning? Impressive. But don’t worry, they will turn them all in at once on a Sunday afternoon. God bless ‘em.
12 Imposters Among Us
At any given moment, all of my students may be playing the game Among Us, while I attempt to show them the beauty in Charles Dickens’ writing.
Someday we will be back in person. Until then, it will be me singing in the midst of all this weirdness. At least I get to see a lot of cute dogs.
Susannah Boersma graduated from Calvin University in May of 2020. She studied secondary English education. She lives in Grand Rapids and works at Carson City-Crystal High School as an English teacher.