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No Pretending This Time, Last Week’s Virtual School Was The Real Deal

Hill Country Living
By Coulter Fussell

Last week was a Wagner Week and in one of the letters Sam Houston invites Jessie to attend a “famous cake walk.” I joked (but was definitely kind of serious) that we need to bring back cake walks to Water Valley! The paper hadn’t been published 10 minutes Wednesday morning before I got an early morning text from my historian parents making sure I knew that a “cake walk” in the 1890s was not quite the same as a “cake walk” in the 1990s.
Suddenly, all these “cake walk” cultural references, songs and phrases popped up in my head. Where had these been when I originally wrote the column?!
In the 1890s a cake walk was a popular dance that had originated in and became popular among African American populations to mock unsuspecting plantation owners. It has a big history starting from there so y’all check it out on Google, if you don’t know already.
But, to be clear, I was calling for a return of the kind of cake walk where you are eight years old at your elementary school playground and pay a dollar to walk around a circle of numbers written on the ground in teacher’s chalk. When the circus music stops, they pull a number from a bowl and you hope against all hope that they draw your number so you can pick the strawberry cake. But they never draw your number. And you’ve never won a cake in a cake walk despite playing it every single solitary year of your elementary school fundraiser-attending career. That was the kind of “cake walk” I was talking about.  But I digress.
Speaking of school, this past week of virtual school was not my finest hour as a parent. I didn’t realize the kids would actually be working on actual real assignments. I sort of assumed it would be Thanksgiving Vacation Part Two, except we were all pretending it was virtual school. Wrong! I was the only one planning on pretending, apparently! It was actual school!
There were pages and pages of assignments and lots of teacher texts and Zoom calls. I realized at 9 a.m. that Monday morning that the week was about to go down very differently than how I’d envisioned it.
If we ever have to do virtual school again, here are some questions I have for the teachers before they suddenly leave us parents out here in the dark to fend for ourselves again:
How does one break up a sibling fight during class?
What if one sibling has a wooden Samurai sword?
How do we, as educators, keep the children from eating bowl after bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch at an absolute snail’s pace to avoid working on their assignments?
Why do the students keep spontaneously wrestling each other?
And lastly, when a neighbor-student shows up at the door at 9 a.m. to play, why does he have to disrupt your precarious and fleeting classroom balance like that and why isn’t he at home doing his own school work instead of causing pandemonium at your house?
Text me the Zoom links to info on these questions next time, please, teachers! Compared to all that, helping my 10 year-old actually divide the  fractions in order to correctly shade in a color-coded Thanksgiving turkey in a Pilgrim’s hat was a cake walk.
A strawberry cake walk.

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