Teaching during coronavirus is a challenge unlike any I’ve ever experienced. But the needs of managing my children’s theater company, pale in comparison with what is expected of the classroom teachers during the coronavirus crisis.
My son’s teacher, Ms. Kaitlyn Urato, eloquently – and mellifluously – expressed this in an incredible YouTube video she shared. This week, she texted me this video, a parody of Disney’s “Part of Your World” for Coronavirus Times. It’s basically gone viral since she sent it, and you’ll see why.
Certainly, words don’t even really do this brilliant “Part of Your World” parody justice, so just watch it.
Part of Your World: A Teacher in Quarantine
In case you’d like to sing along, the lyrics are right here:
Lyrics for “Part of Your World Parody”
Look at this stuff?
Isn’t it neat?
Wouldn’t ya think my collection’s complete?
Wouldn’t you think I’m a girl,
A girl who has everything?
Look at this screen!
What does this mean?
How many programs must I balance between?
Looking around here, you think, sure, she’s got everything.
I’ve got toilet paper a plenty.
I’ve got cleaning supplies galore.
You want wine bottles?
I’ve got 20.
But who cares,
no big deal,
I want more.
I want to be where the people are…
I want to see, want to be there dancing.
Walking around on those, what do you call em?
Leaving the couch, you don’t get too far.
Legs are created for jumpin’, dancin’,
Strolling around down a (wait, what’s that word again?)
Out where we walk, out where we run.
Out where we stay all day in the sun.
Wish I could be
Out of quarantine.
What would I give, if I could live out of this apartment?
What would I pay, to spend a day warm on the sand?
Betcha on land, they understand that they don’t Zoom to see their daughters.
Bright young women, sick of sittin’, ready to stand.
And ready to know where the people go.
Give them my order and get some entrees.
Having fun with those people, wait, what’s the word?
When will this end?
Wouldn’t I love,
To go to that rooftop club up above?
Back on the scene,
Eating the finest cuisine,
Out of quarantine.
From Teaching in Person to Teaching in Quarantine
In regular life, I’m used to seeing Ms Urato through a haze of children. We’ll give a little wave at drop-off and a thumbs up at pick-up, exchanging pat affirmations, (“TGIF!”…“We made it!!”). I trust her implicitly (along with her equally gifted co-teacher, Ms Nayana Devedas and the faculty at my son’s public school in Brooklyn, Arts and Letters) to educate my child. That’s a big deal.
However, since the pandemic, gone are the brief in-person waves and thumbs up. Although it is “remote”, there’s actually a ton more contact. Since I have no business being a classroom teacher, I’m so grateful for hands-on she’s been. Now, I’m used to hearing her voice through the computer in the background as she leads a small reading group over Zoom. I’ll text her pictures of our little white board filled with my son’s 2nd grade sentences, and she’ll write back “Great work, Nathaniel, maybe next time remember finger spacing!” Ironically enough, it feels like we’ve all gotten to know each other even better with learning in a pandemic.
That said, I had no idea she had these crazy skills as a singing-artist satirist.
“Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don’t see a different purpose for it now.”
~ Dorothea Tanning
Interview with a Teacher in Quarantine
Just because I could, (I know her, I really know her!), I talked to Ms. Kaitlyn Urato herself. Rather, I emailed her these questions – let’s be real. She shared with me the challenges of being a teacher in quarantine, and her creative process. So, I came away with some tips for parents on how to work with their children’s teachers during remote learning. Moreover, she gives great insights on lyric-making (hint: showers are involved!).
Conversation with Ms Kaitlyn Urato
Jocelyn: That was incredible. Nathaniel, Glenn and I had our jaws on the floor as we watched this. First I have to ask, what’s your background as a singer/artist/actor?
Ms Urato: Thank you so much! I come from a musical family. My mom and several of her sisters have beautiful voices, my uncle plays guitar, and several of my cousins are musically inclined. I grew up singing with them at every family gathering. I also sang in church, school choirs, and performed in my high school’s musicals.
My senior year of high school I was Belle in Beauty and the Beast (guess that’s when I found my “Disney” voice). In college I was in an all-female a cappella group (yes, it was very much like Pitch Perfect). I considered majoring in Musical Theater but I always knew I wanted to be an elementary teacher so I decided singing would always be part of my life no matter my career!
Jocelyn: So, what was your impetus to sitting down and writing this extremely apt, relatable and perfect parody?
Ms Urato: Like I said, my family is similar to the Von Trapps, so it’s become a family tradition that at big events, such as family weddings, birthdays, retirements, etc., some of us rewrite the lyrics to songs and perform them. So the other day I was chatting with my cousin about our new daily lives and I said “I want to be where the people are” in an Ariel voice. Immediately the idea popped into my head. If you think about it, that entire song is basically about being quarantined.
As I was singing the song in the shower (the best ideas and best singing always happen in the shower of course), I started playing around with the lyrics. I then began rewriting the song and an hour later I decided to put on some mascara and record it. Usually I would just text something like that to some close friends and family members but when I sent it to my cousin, he said “what are you going to do with that?!” I was then inspired to upload to YouTube. I had no idea it would have so many views just 12 hours later!
Teaching During COVID-19
Jocelyn: There have been some recent articles about the demands of teaching online. Your lyric, “How many programs must I balance between?” really captures that frustration. While, of course, parents have their own challenges during this time, they maybe aren’t as attuned to the behind-the-scenes work that the teachers are doing for their students. What are some of the issues that teachers contend with as they now deal with this new reality of online learning?
Ms Urato: Each week has been a new adventure. During this time of remote learning, so many programs and companies are offering free accounts. But at the same time it felt overwhelming as a teacher to navigate. My goal throughout this time has been to continue providing quality education and learning experiences while supporting kids and families as people first. I didn’t want to overwhelm families with too many platforms, logins, passwords, etc. I think we have finally found the right balance for kids, families, and teachers. The kids have been absolutely amazing. Seeing their faces on Zoom is the highlight of my day.
Jocelyn: What’s something you’d like parents to know that they might not realize about teaching and learning online?
Ms Urato: Teachers are being extremely thoughtful in designing the online learning experience for kids and families. It’s been so meaningful when families have given us feedback about how things are going. Everybody is learning how to navigate this new territory together. We don’t want parents to feel that they have turned into homeschool teachers.
Teachers want kids to be independent through this process and of course share their learning experience with family members. I’ve seen a lot of success with kids taking ownership of their Zoom schedules and activities. Families have been setting kids up for their day and then taking a step back. The kids are enjoying being in charge of their learning.
Jocelyn: What do you miss most about teaching kids in person?
Ms. Urato: I miss seeing their adorable faces. I miss the laughs and the hugs (and even the tears!). It’s so hard for me to give in-the-moment feedback to kids through online teaching. When we are in the classroom, I am immediately able to assess if a child has understood the learning and can adjust my teaching accordingly. Through the screen it’s a bit different. I wish I could just be sitting there right next to them!
Jocelyn: Is there any silver lining to this kind of education? Are there any take-aways from teaching online that you think will be applicable to teaching in person? What do you think we will have learned or will value more when we all return back to “normal”?
Ms Urato: The kids have been so excited to see each other in our whole group and small group Zoom calls. During our first whole group morning meeting, I cried. It was so beautiful seeing their excitement from human interaction through a screen. In these times we are all reminded that we are people first, then we are students, teachers, artists, etc. I believe we will all appreciate our time together and we won’t take that time for granted.
Jocelyn: Any other songs in the works? Should we stay tuned to your channel?
Ms Urato: Possibly…stay tuned!
Jocelyn: I love your details about wine and cuisine in your song? What are the non-teaching stuff you miss about life pre-covid!?
Ms: Urato: I miss seeing my family, friends, and students. I can’t wait to be able to attend concerts/shows, parties, restaurants, the gym and the beach again! But I am grateful to be home safe and healthy.
So, there you have it. Just like the first responders and the essential workers, we owe our kids’ teachers a huge debt of gratitude. In conclusion, my hat (but not my mask!) is off to the educators who have had to make such a demanding pivot in their career, learning new platforms and ways to communicate and reaching through the screen to help our kids.
Do share this with any teacher or parent you know who might love to laugh and empathize with this inspired parody. You can stay tuned for more songs on Ms Urato’s YouTube channel too!