In the past few weeks, life as we knew it seemed to flip on its head since COVID-19 began hitting the United States. My daughter, like thousands of other children throughout Florida, has had to deal with the closing of the schools and the transition to virtual learning. As we enter our second week of virtual schooling, both she and I have experienced a wide array of emotions. We have shed tears at the thought that virtual school may be our new reality for the remainder of the school year, we have expressed our grief at not being able to see our friends and teachers, and we have felt great pride in our educators for overcoming such tremendous, unprecedented hurdles and completely adapting her learning experience in such a brief period of time. In many ways, virtual learning offers new opportunities for me as a parent to become more involved in my daughters schooling, and it offers her previously unforeseen benefits.
Since the age of three, my daughter has had hearing loss in her right ear. Though she wears a hearing aid, the classroom is often a noisy and overwhelming place. When you put 15 first graders in a room there is bound to be a ruckus from time to time! One of the unexpected benefits of virtual learning is that my daughter day is no longer interrupted by noisy classmates. Though the children are all connected within the same “classroom” they are instructed to mute their computer microphones unless they are asking or answering a question. This removes the constant shuffle of papers, tapping of pencils, and general sounds of squirming 6-year-olds. Because the sessions are recorded, we can go back and replay anything that she may have missed. And because we are working from home, the teachers are providing typed instructions to accompany assignments which would normally have been verbal instructions. At school my daughter finds the cafeteria to be overwhelming and often feels that she needs to take out her hearing aid to be able to sit comfortably through lunch, now we are able to eat lunch together in the comfort and quiet of our dining room. While we long to return to the days of normal classrooms, we can at least find the silver-lining in our virtual school experience.