I spent my teenage years waiting for a letter that never came—an owl-delivered offer of admission from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At the muggle elementary school I attended, we brewed no potions and flew no brooms. We studied basic arithmetic and practiced forming cursive letters in longhand. We learned serious subjects from serious textbooks.
You’re in a Zoom meeting. Your posture is first-rate, and the forty-three muscles in your face are contracted to deliver an expression that’s saying, “There’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be.” We’ve all been there. And then, at the precise moment that your meeting ends, it’s as though a flip had been switched: your entire body relaxes back to its regular home-office slouch, and your facial expression returns to its neutral position. Maybe you even change back into your pyjamas.
Occasionally, that’s what this pandemic-inspired solitude feels like: a punishment. And what’s more upsetting than a punishment for a crime you did not commit? Such are the conditions that many students and educators have endured for almost a year. It is easy to think of remote learning—specifically, remote learning that is not “voluntary”—as something of a relegation into unfamiliar educational territory.