SOME WITH trepidation, others with optimism, they put on a brave face and willing attitude and disembarked at Beginners Bay in the hope of collecting useful items, ideas, and skills to take them through the next few weeks. As they met at the collaborative table, some were excited by what they were able to share and receive while others felt they were now totally doomed as they became more confused and overwhelmed and likened the feeling to being adrift at sea with no ability to swim and holding on to nothing but a small log of hope.
The touts were everywhere shouting, shoving, some even fighting – “Google Meet,” “Edmodo,” “Zoom,” “Teams,” “Moodle,” just to name a few. As if sometimes they were speaking in tongues “digital ram and rom,” “hyperlink,” “browser,” “VPNs,” “asynchronous,” “synchronous,” “hybrid learning” one felt like an interpreter was needed or at best a glossary of terms was going to be their next best friend.
Suddenly lives were being turned inside out for passengers. Beds and family life felt abandoned as planning and preparation was now the order of the day. Food and showering squeezed in as afterthoughts and just like that life as it was ceased to exist.
Yet still educators carried on, persevering against a maddening tide of unpredictability and confusion while the captain only posed for photographs and media interviews while incessantly issuing directives for data on the journey’s progress each day. Some teachers were reporting to the sickbay with symptoms of stress and burnout, having barely survived the first week’s journey. Indeed, there were unconfirmed reports that there has been one casualty.
With whatever little they could carry, they left Beginners Bay and next stop was Snag Island. Snag Island looked calm as the travellers approached but the name alone gave them that eerie feeling and sure enough it was not long before fears were confirmed. Here they were told they would each get a bungalow if they felt they needed resources that they could not provide on their own. They could stay in the state-run bungalow called “school” and some chose that option hoping to have greater success.
Well frustrations grew as many could not power on as apparently the Ministry of Education did not think that they should partner with the electricity supplier or internet suppliers to have a smooth run of things. Some people were flooded in at their school bungalow. For those who thought that, okay, they were set, and things looked like they would work, they embarked on orientation and here is where they were rudely awakened.
Disrespect, profanity, and indiscipline seemed to be the order of the day with no way to punish the perpetrators. Further panic took over as one never knew what was awaiting them after a few clicks. If that were not enough, the ever-changing instructions that came from the captain could only be described as unreasonable and unrealistic at times. Some did not know which task to attempt first as they began their days.
They tried to signal to the captain that some plans look good on paper but in practicality they were not as glowing because the plans did not take into consideration all the realities owing to a lack of prior consultation with the teachers. The bungalow operators were confused, tired, and had a feeling of haplessness all over again. Oh, how they longed for the old days; many singing the words of Nappy Mayers’ calypso. And still they forged on hoping to move from this island.
Unfortunately, by the end of the first week the journey for many older tech-challenged people had become a nightmare of unimaginable proportions with questions being answered with more questions. The deep blue sea ahead seemed ominous and scary to many. Some students were wondering what to do with some of the “packages” that were delivered to them, having been isolated in their rooms. They had questions they needed to ask their teachers but had no way of communicating with them. Others were complaining that they needed to go outside and play since their eyes were hurting from excessive screen exposure.
Some of the parents were exasperated, having to balance working and being forced to walk in the shoes of teachers alongside their children. Then there were those parents who were not just content to supervise their children while onscreen, they decided to challenge and insult teachers. Working hours of teachers and school officials also seemed to be expanded to any day, anytime as we plough these uncertain waters full speed.
How this journey will end, no one knows.