Lessons of a School Marm

It didn’t take any coaxing. I responded to the job opening in a flash.

Needed: One School Marm, to oversee two grade schoolers in distance learning

I was hired on the spot.

The need was in my daughter Karen’s home, when a medical emergency interrupted their carefully planned arrangements. Their oldest two children in grades 3 and 4 were well accustomed to the drill of their remote school room, yet still needed supervision while she and her husband were at work. It wasn’t hard to commit to spending the week with my grandkids.

To date, I had only heard about distance learning from teachers, media and hearsay. This was the first time I engaged with it first-hand. To students Ben and Mya it was all old hat by now, their routine well-honed. They knew their schedules well, they were the ones leading me through their myriad Google-meets, videos, live instruction and breakout sessions. I watched as they unmuted and muted their computers to speak in class, raised their white boards to the screen to show answers to math problems and juggled with classmates on a screen full of faces.

I marveled at how easily they embraced the technology, whipping between tabs, logins, and online resources. Like the kids that they are, they sucked it up easily and took it in stride. On the other side of the screen, I had to marvel at the teachers. How they tailored their lessons to the electronic age, leveraged resources on the web and still managed to engage their students one-on-one by name in the grid of faces in their virtual classroom. My admiration grew for this resourceful set of adults, faced with the unthinkable and rising to occasion, teaching under conditions they never dreamed possible.

When gym time came I followed Ben to the basement, chromebook under his arm, where he set himself up with a jump rope, balls and shopping bags. Shopping bags? Not all students have access to gym equipment or space at home, but one ingenious instructor created workout videos based on doing moves while throwing plastic bags into the air. It required as much dexterity and coordination as any fancy athletic routine, but with less chance of knocking over any lamps.

All kids procrastinate, doodle and play around during the school day. They wouldn’t be kids if they didn’t. Under this new regime, I watched Mya carefully select the colors and font for her text as she composed answers to her reading assignment. I rolled my eyes as she insisted on drawing the question numbers instead of typing them, erasing and redrawing until she got them just right. All that took far longer than actually coming up with her answers. But I had to admire her computer skills.

While the technology is new, the subjects haven’t changed much. I sat with Ben as he worked through the steps of long division, over and over again until he had it down pat. I read poems with Mya and listened to her answers when she was asked to analyze the poems, look for metaphors and similes, and compare their messages. I learned about open vowels, reviewed the use of commas and how to construct a timeline. We read stories together and answered comprehension questions.

Since I was a live-in aid, we found time for extracurricular activities as well. Before school became cooking time, resulting in mounds of mini banana chocolate chip muffins that fueled us through the next two school days. After school, Karen, Ben and I took to the ski trails. Donning headlamps, we skied under the lights and then ventured beyond to ski the quieter, dark unlit trails. It was a welcome release after being in the house all day.

Despite being highly self-sufficient, the kids seemed to thrive on having someone close by as we traveled through each day together. Someone to answer their questions, to help with explanations and just reassure them that they were doing it right. I felt needed and relished the closeness of our days together, our joint mission. Since I live several hours away, it was a rare opportunity to get to know them better.

I never aspired to be a teacher – I knew I didn’t have the right genes for that. But I can be a good old-fashioned School Marm.

6 thoughts on “Lessons of a School Marm

  1. Dear Molly, Wonderfully crafted, beautifully worded, and you painted just the right picture of the world, and teaching of today’s computer schools! Thanks for sharing it with us! We can appreciate just what the teachers are going through, as well as their students!

    Love, Phillis and Bill

    On Fri, Jan 8, 2021 at 8:28 PM Superior Footprints wrote:

    > Molly posted: ” It didn’t take any coaxing. I responded to the job opening > in a flash. Needed: One School Marm, to oversee two grade schoolers in > distance learning I was hired on the spot. The need was in my daughter > Karen’s home, when a medical emergen” >

  2. Hi Molly, Your email about teaching your grandchildren resonated with me because I am doing something very similar. My daughter-in-law in Hayward, WI has been home schooling her 2 children since they started school, but Karl, the 11 year old, was not motivated. My son asked if I would teach his history lesson. Of course, I would!! I have a minor in history and have always loved it and I taught 6th grade for 5 years. Wisconsin history is a little different than MN history but I am learning. He calls me at 8:30 am n Whats App so we can see each other. We start out with current events and then read the lesson together. We just started a week ago, but already he says the best part of the day is history with Grandma Marcia and science with Grandpa James (he is the other grandpa). So we are all working together. Enjoy these mild, beautiful days. Marcia

    Sent from my iPad


    • What a wonderful way to spice up Karl’s lessons and bring different perspectives to his subjects! It doesn’t even have to be Covid to bring about these great connections with our precious grandchildren. Enjoy your teaching, Marcia!

  3. so neat to see their school days in action at home. you’re all making it work in the most beautiful ways. hurrah!

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