Janet Mizrahi is a continuing lecturer of professional writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is also an author at BizCommBuzz.
This is part two of my series chronicling my journey teaching online in a journal format. I hope it resonates with you as you work to navigate teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 27. I’ve done it! Just completed the fifth week of the quarter—midway to the finish line. At least I can start and tape Zoom synchronous class sessions but am one hair’s width away from panic and breakdown at all times. I have begun to obsessively check email to hear from students and reply to them at all hours. Why not? I have no life to speak of.
April 29. Learn via Zoom meeting we will definitely be online again in the fall. Of course, we will be expected to deliver higher quality remote learning this go-round. But not to worry! We are assured there are all sorts of summer workshops to help us restructure our classes! Did I mention that this coming summer is my first in 20 years not to be teaching summer session? That I was looking forward to a school-free three months as a precursor for my retirement at the end of 2021??? Do I sound peeved? Because I AM!!!
May 6. [Sob.] I have reached the nadir of my teaching life. Things were going along swimmingly—Zoom meetings started, recorded, and uploaded; I chaired my last executive/personnel committee meeting of the year and my career; and I’ve even continued my exercise regimen.
But yesterday. (Note to Paul McCartney: I do NOT believe in yesterday.)
The bleakness started early when the very thought of launching Zoom led to a feeling of such exhaustion that I wanted to get back into bed and take a nap for, like, maybe a few months. But I gave my lecture—even successfully screen-shared multiple times. Then I showed my science communication seniors a former student’s video called “Is it just forgetfulness… or dementia?”
I show the video because it was well-done, but I’d forgotten (spoiler alert, things go downhill from here) how seeing it throws me into a maelstrom of fear and worry. For the rest of the class, the video haunted me. My usually fluid conversational style vanished. Poof. I forgot to have the students do in-class exercises to prepare for their next assignment (write a video script). Likewise, I didn’t point out the tip sheet I’d just uploaded for them. I abruptly ended the session to recover before my next class and lie on the couch with the fear of the condemned.
Was the next class any better? What do you think? NO. Except for the fact that I told this group about my dementia scare experience, and each time I made a gaffe, I jokingly said to them, “See, dementia!” and got laughs. Still, I’m worried, and not just about losing it. Were they laughing AT me??
May 13. I seem to have lost three students. I have gently reminded them to get busy, but I fear they have succumbed to despair. Further communication from me would qualify as stalking, so now I have to wait. Am I going to have to give Fs on top of all the rest of this quarter’s tribulations?
May 15. Is it my imagination, or is it taking me MEGA time to grade papers online? I spent all day on 17 students’ news releases, which normally would have taken me half the time. Heeelllpp me!
May 20. Registration for fall quarter has begun, and I am doomed. I will have full classes of juniors and seniors who are taking courses to fulfill a requirement. I know what this looks like. Glazed eyes. Questions for which the answers are readily available in the syllabus. Haphazard work. Late work. Thinning attendance as the quarter wanes….
But then there are the few, the ones who really want to learn what I have to teach. I will focus on them while I smile and nod at the others. I will delve into my knowledge of 25 years as a teacher and 20 years before that as a professional writer, and I will get to those few students and they will remember that weird old lady who was passionate about what she taught.
Because I am Teacher. Hear me…um, roll call.
We understand how challenging it can be to shift your course format mid-semester, with little to no time to prepare. To ensure you’re ready for success with your course model this fall, we’ve pulled together a professional development series called Navigating What’s Next: Helping Students Thrive in Your New Course Format.