Mr. Siler and the mystery of the smoke alarm

Every day, while I am in my Meets with my students, I can hear a smoke alarm giving a battery beep … somewhere. It has been going on for weeks, and I have been keeping track of which students are in the room while I can hear it and it is not common to any one student.

At no time whatsoever during the rest of the day can I ever hear a smoke alarm. It is absolutely not in my house, because the battery would have died by now, and I would have noticed it at some other point in my day. I would have noticed it on weekends. My son or my wife would have noticed it.

It is absolutely not happening in this house, and at the same time it is clearly not happening in any specific student’s house. In fact, since I’ve been typing this, it’s stopped, but no one has left the Meet while I’ve been typing.

There is a Goddamned ghost smoke alarm living inside Google Meet, and I don’t know how to make that particular kind of ghost go away. Please send me an old priest and a young priest.



I said in my introductory video for my kids yesterday that I was expecting this to be my second weirdest first day of school ever, only getting beaten out by the first day of school that I missed because my son had just been born the day before.

This may have been weirder. I’m trying to put a heavy emphasis right now on being accessible to my kids, right? I don’t want anyone anywhere to be able to use “I couldn’t reach my teacher” as an excuse to not do what they’re supposed to be doing. And I know that this is the first day of school and that things are going to calm down, and frankly that’s unfortunate. I was expecting to have maybe two or three kids at a time in my little Google Meet room for most of the day, with occasional periods of time where there was no one in there. What I was not expecting was that kids were going to log in and that they were just going to stay there. I had sixteen to twenty eighth graders in my virtual “classroom” for three straight hours this morning, some of whom came in at 9 and just stuck around for the whole time. Probably a dozen, at least, were in there for more than an hour, and literally all I was asking them to do was pop in and say hello, since we’re not doing any real instruction just yet.

I have also learned that Google Meet is going to be entirely unacceptable for trying to actually do synchronous teaching, because I don’t have remotely the level of control over the meeting that I need to have. I can’t boot kids or mute them because they can literally unmute themselves or come back in immediately. I don’t really want to have to boot kids, and I don’t know to what extent disruptiveness is even going to be a thing in this, but I need the ability. So we’re trying Zoom tomorrow, which I think they have installed on their Chromebooks but I’m not 100% sure. We’ll see what the numbers look like compared to today.

And then, after three solid hours of listening to 8th graders try to yell over each other, which doesn’t sound tiring even as I’m sitting here typing it but trust me, I had to do three hours of professional development this afternoon, and … Christ. It’s 6:30 as I’m writing this, I’ve basically been working since 9:00 this morning, and I still need to record tomorrow’s lesson in its entirety, so I’m not done yet.

This will get easier, it always does, but man, am I tired.