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Photo courtesy of Chris Montgomery

Fiction

My instructional video got zero views: A play by Henrik Ibsen

By Kerry Elson

SCENE – A tiny, grubby, Ikea-furnished kitchen. On the kitchen table is a small whiteboard, a dry-erase marker, and a laptop. KERRY, in soft pants, is sitting at the table, talking with colleagues ELIZA and MAGGIE on Zoom. It is spring.


KERRY: Well, Eliza and Maggie – our remote teaching day is done. My first graders – they were good enough to stay on the day’s Zoom meeting, making fine use of their whiteboards and dry-erase markers to write numbers, letters, and the like – and I did the same. Tell me, how was your day online?


ELIZA: Indeed, it was letters and numbers for us, as well!


MAGGIE: This morning – if I may share -- I successfully moved children into a breakout room with my instructional assistant and – thank heaven – when I closed the breakout room 20 minutes later, all the children returned to the main meeting!


KERRY: I declare – all the children?


MAGGIE: Indeed! For I pressed the correct button this time.


KERRY [in quiet emotion]: What new instructional skills we have learned during this pandemic. In addition to teaching live on Zoom, I have learned to make videos of myself talking, for children to watch at home as part of their school day.


ELIZA and MAGGIE [in unison]: For your asynchronous instruction?


KERRY: Precisely! Every day, I make video lessons for reading, writing, math, and word study. I post them to our learning portal, Design4SchoolClassSpace, as you may do with your own instructional videos.


ELIZA: Yes, yes! I hope my videos receive many views, even though in some, I may appear bedraggled, as though I have not showered in a couple of days.


KERRY: Indeed! When teaching from home – alone -- one only has to face oneself -- and, I dare say, a young child may not notice if I wear the same fleece jacket from one day to the next. Or, come to think of it, the fleece may appear to be my instructional uniform – expected.


MAGGIE: I feel the same about my hoodie.


KERRY: We are shipwrecked women clinging to the wreckage of a topsy-turvy school year. And yet, when I check how many views my instructional videos have received – I always see that each has received at least one view. Frankly, that makes me feel my endeavors are worthwhile –


MAGGIE and ELIZA [in unison]: Even one view – thank heaven!


KERRY: On a good day, a video may receive 10 views, which could mean that one child in my class pressed play 10 times or that 10 individual children watched the lesson once – I cannot say --


MAGGIE: It can only mean 10 individual children watched the lesson you filmed, surely!


KERRY [glancing at the kitchen table]: That is what I tell myself. But even if a video receives one view -- that gives my day meaning. In fact, it makes me wonder --


ELIZA: -- how many views your videos received today?


KERRY: Yes.


ELIZA: Are you going to check?


KERRY: Yes. [Typing.] Please excuse me as I direct my gaze to the video view-tracker on the online learning portal.


MAGGIE [eagerly]: What does it say?


KERRY: I am waiting for the page to load.


ELIZA: Patience, Maggie.


KERRY [croaking]: Oh, God.


ELIZA and MAGGIE [in unison]: What -- what does it say?


KERRY [in agony, gripping the table]: Zero – zero views for my asynchronous word study instructional video –


ELIZA: Nonsense! It must be a mistake – sometimes –


MAGGIE: There are glitches, delays in the calculating mechanism –


KERRY [head on the table, eyes closed, whispering]: I trust the portal.


ELIZA: But, Kerry -- why would a first grader play with L.O.L. dolls – or play Roblox – or ride their scooter outside -- when they could instead watch a screencast of their teacher using a document camera and sticky notes in efficient, artful – dare I say – constructivist ways? [Alarmed] Kerry?


MAGGIE: Kerry -- !


KERRY [heartbeat slowing]: It is true, all the same, that this video received no views today. I give you my word. Remote learning – is challenging for students and I both -- !


MAGGIE and ELIZA [in unison]: Kerry--!


KERRY [gasping]: Presently -- I will close my laptop – I shall not think of my computer again this evening – and instead make my nightly spaghetti – goodbye. [She leaves the meeting.]


MAGGIE [buries her face in her hands]: Kerry! [Looks up – sees that Kerry has left the Zoom meeting.] Empty. She is gone.


ELIZA [despairing]: Dear God! Kerry! If only her word-study video had received a single view --! And yet [raising a whiteboard marker to the sky] her efforts with asynchronous instructional videos -- must be praised --!

Kerry Elson is a teacher and writer in New York City. See more of her work at kerryelson.org.