Cory Armstrong-Hoss: A dad’s work and school Zoom adventures

This is how one father balanced — or did the best he could — remote learning and an office meeting.

Cory Armstrong-Hoss

Cory Armstrong-Hoss

By Cory Armstrong-Hoss / Herald Forum

“Dad, it’s not working. I can’t get on my class.”

“I’ll take a look.”

I step away from my leadership team Zoom call to help Sammy troubleshoot. His school-issued laptop is on, accessing our wireless network, but it’s not connecting. He’s already late to Ms. Wise’s 9 a.m. Zoom call.

“Dad, I’m already late! I’m missing it!”

“Here, I’ll get you on using my work laptop. I can join my call with my phone while I figure it out.” I grab my laptop for him, log into Schoology, and he joins his class. I open up Zoom on my phone and get back on my meeting, with my camera and microphone off.

Since late Fall, I’ve been working from home while managing distance learning for CeCe, who is 6; Sammy, 9; and Cole, 12.

I pop up from the dining room table when CeCe yells “Dad, I need help!” showing her how to drag the right letter to the starting sound of the image: Rat, Hat, Cat, Bat; I crawl under desks and follow power cords to see why her laptop shuts down mid-Zoom; I cut apple slices and grab string cheese for all three at 10:30 a.m. for the morning snack; I look up internet search histories to see if Cole is sticking in Mrs. Hyatt’s ELA class or clicking on “Best NFL Trick Plays” on YouTube; I try to focus Sammy on his big Wednesday projects: “What recipe do you want to try?” “How will you double it to show the fractions?” I microwave chicken nuggets and slice strawberries for lunch. I try to track missing assignments, Crazy Hair days, assessment days, and changing afternoon Specialists (“CeCe’s PE/Music is on Tuesdays at 2:45 p.m.now, and please make sure she has her jump-rope and maracas.”) I drive by for Supply Pick Up and Assignment Turn-In days, masked and with the windows rolled down, as a teacher drops a paper bag in my back seat, like some amateur drug deal. I try to answer my overworked wife’s questions at night: “Why does Cole have three missing assignments in ELA?” “Why did Mrs. Tallmadge’s email say that CeCe missed Reading again?” “How far did Sammy get on his recipe project?” In the afternoons I try to limit screen time, mandate outside time, be a cheerleader for exercise, arrange covid-style outside playdates, claw for a decent chunk of time because I need — desperately — to do my own work.

My leadership team call is wrapping up, and I’ve spent the last hour and a half watching on my phone, because I can’t get Sammy’s laptop to connect to our wifi network. I had no agenda items, and I’m still pretty new, so I try to fly under the radar.

Our CEO Steve is concluding things, and says, “I wasn’t going to bring this up, but is it just me, or is Cory’s eye creeping everybody out?”

Jan agrees, and indeed, there is consensus that my eye has been creeping people out for a while now. I can’t see my own square on my phone. I don’t understand, but I laugh along with these senior leaders.

After my meeting, I check in on Sammy and see the “Cory Armstrong-Hoss” photo on his Zoom call. I say, “What is THAT?”

“Oh, I zoomed in on your face really close for my background.”

Cory Armstrong-Hoss lives in Everett with his wife and three kids. He’s a nonprofit guy and a volunteer for his school district and coach. He just wants some time to focus.

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