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'It was complete anarchy.' My honest recap of remote learning in Melbourne.

The countdown is on my fellow Melburnians! Twelve more sleeps until SCHOOL IS BACK! 

On such a momentous occasion I felt the need to recap my own remote learning journey. 

Let’s travel back to the beginning.

It's March 2020 in Melbourne and we are staring into an impending sh*tstorm. People smelling the oncoming sh*t have decided the logical thing to do is to immediately hoard toilet paper and panic buy rice.

Ben Lee’s 'We’re All In This Together' is the soundtrack of the moment and there is a general sense of blind optimism in the air.

That is, until I receive this text - three words that chill me to my core. 

"Schools are closing."

I assumed my friend (also a teacher) sent this as a joke. I pictured her swivelling around in a chair stroking a white cat and laughing maniacally. 

My first response was, "No!"

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Which was quickly followed by: "Sorry? What? For how long? Look, is there a website I can find to inform me exactly how long?! I love my four children, after all I'm not a monster... I'm more than happy to be permanently in their presence, because you know, all the love. But just wondering if someone could give me an exact idea OF HOW LONG?!?! "

After extensive phone calls and googling things like, "how long do global pandemics last",it was established there was no end date in sight. 

I calmly proceeded to the laundry to grab my emergency hidden chocolate stash from the empty detergent box. I then sat in a pile of dirty washing and ate the entire (unfairly named) 'FAMILY size' block whilst listening to Adele and ugly crying. 

Adequately fueled with sugar and cursing the fact I used precious toilet paper to mop up my tears, I went to tell my children the news.

They began to circle the room chanting, "NO MORE SCHOOL! NO MORE SCHOOL!"

There seemed to be a Lord of the Flies vibe entering the house. It suddenly dawned on me how severely outnumbered I was. I smiled at them with my mouth as my eyes were desperately sending a distress signal to my husband across the room. S.O.S. NEED. MORE. CHOCOLATE. AND. WINE.

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Enter: denial. This will be fine! So, so fine. Precious memories. Quality time together. It's really a blessing. Totally FINE! 

Week one. 

I became insufferable. I Marie Kondoed the sh*t out of EVERYTHING. I started to look at our pet rabbit and wonder if he really sparked enough joy.

There was a colour coordinated timetable. A label maker. Individual whiteboards. I was like the Oprah of organisation, "YOU GET A WHITEBOARD, YOU GET A WHITEBOARD, WE ALL WILL BE FINE BECAUSE OF THE WHITEBOARDS!"

Week two. 

Oh no, my mistake. It was in fact only day two and I realised that time has ceased to have any meaning at all. 

I stared at the timetable in resentment, as the true meaning of a timetable revealed itself - a cruel reminder of how long a day actually is. I gathered the troops.

"Okay guys, I've packed you a labelled lunchbox, that way you can stick to a schedule and not have to ask me for food every five minutes. I'm going to get started on my work. Please only interrupt if it is important like... something is on fire. Have fun and learn stuff!"

Literally, five minutes later.

"Muum I’ve lost my login password and my lunchbox!" screeched my seven-year-old. 

"How can you have already lost your lunchbox? What do you mean you left it somewhere? YOU DON'T GO ANYWHERE!!! THIS SHOULDN'T BE HAPPENING!  I LABELLED IT!!!"

I soon realise I should just make labels in bulk that read: "Sh*t soon to be lost forever."

I officially gave up on labels and lunchboxes.

Week 278. 

"Muum you can't google the answer, the teacher said that’s cheating! Don't you know how to do long multiplication? Didn't you already go to school?" my nine-year-old daughter said, rolling her eyes. 

"Look," I replied defensively. "The fact is that we cannot control what information our brains decide to store! And apparently mine decided to let go of any grade three math but to retain the lyrics to Savage Garden’s 'Cherry Cola', ok?"

To be honest, I stand by my brain's choice on that one. 

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Week 398.

Complete anarchy.

"Why did you write the whole story in yellow highlighter? How am I supposed to upload this? You can’t read it!"

"What do mean it's crazy hat day? When is your Google Meet? Here, I'll make a paper cone hat and draw some eyes on it."

"Yep, you're right, it’s bad. I’d keep your camera off today."

Week 476.

"MUM CAN YOU WIPE MY BUM?!" screamed my five-year-old. 

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"CAN YOU PLEASE HAVE A GO AT WIPING IT YOURSELF! YOU NEED TO START PRACTICING! I CAN’T COME TO SCHOOL AND WIPE YOUR... "

"Mum, stop yelling about bums, I'm in my Google Meet!" my seven-year-old interrupted, completely horrified. Perfect. 

"Ok darling I’ll be there in a minute, why don’t we sing our fun handwashing song together!"

"Why are you using that weird voice?" my seven-year-old now looked at me as if an alien life form had invaded my body. 

"Don’t be silly this is my voice darling. Say hi to your teacher and let me know if you need any help," I said smiling and wiping down the wall behind her. 

Meanwhile, I could see my five-year-old sticking the arm of Mr Potato Head up his baby sister's nose.

"GET THAT OUT RIGHT NOW!" I whisper yelled. Ah, whisper yelling. A talent every parent masters eventually. Used primarily in public spaces. It’s equal parts ridiculous and effective. 

Week 1578.

All the days have officially melded into one. I'm starting to wonder whether I should just hand the parenting reins over to YouTube and hope for the best.

The same phrases are uttered over and over again. 

"WHERE ARE ALL THE DAMN CHARGERS IN THIS HOUSE!!!"

"How can you be finished already?"

"Is that camera on?"

"No, you cannot just skip it!"

"Oh god, I don't know. For the millionth time, ask your teacher!"

"I've told you the WIFI password! We wrote it on the whiteboard. WHERE ARE ALL THE WHITEBOARDS?"

"NO, you CANNOT have any more screen time."

"LOOK, Mummy just needs a minute. I have to make a call, go play on the iPad."

Now we are approaching the end! Remote learning will soon be over. I honestly want to hold an assembly. Adults only. Instead of the national anthem, we rejoice in a rendition of 'Sing Hallelujah!'

Replacing the 'student of the week' awards we just all receive a certificate with a gold star that reads 'I survived parenting in 2020.' Even if it is just the token participation award. We have done it. 

And then we celebrate the real MVPs. The teachers. Who have managed to adapt and pivot to engage and educate our babies through a screen. Who have entered our chaotic households and politely smiled through it all.

I’d like to hold a bloody parade for all the incredible teachers. As long as it is a mask-wearing, socially distanced parade that showers us all with hand sanitiser instead of champagne. 

Because I sure as hell don’t want to do this again!

Feature image: Getty.

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