Thursday, July 16, 2020
I have two weeks of online teaching left this term. What a ride it's been! I found an amazing article online about the experience of online teaching. Now I can't find it, but it was the sort of writing which put into words what I couldn't express. I wish I could write like that.
The first two weeks were hell and I didn't know how I could survive it. The second two weeks, I felt I could do it, but I still didn't like it, but a new computer helped a lot. The last few weeks, I've found some satisfaction and even some good points, but the biggest thing is the same as other teachers are experiencing. It's very draining. I sometimes finish at lunchtime and go straight to bed and sleep solid for a couple of hours.
The preparation takes hours more than before because I need to retype so much material that I used to just throw on the photocopier and take to class. I can't leave anything to chance and have to plan a lesson that fills up all of the 100 minutes because you can't pick up and expand on what comes up spontaneously during the lesson. You can't judge the general atmosphere so as to stop an activity when students are getting tired, and you can't judge when they're not understanding so that you can clarify. There's a small delay between speaking and hearing so you have to remember to take it slowly. If you say "Mmm" while a student is speaking, their mike cuts out.
Many students refuse to turn their cameras on, so you can spend a whole class teaching to a black screen. It's understandable because quite a few students don't live in comfortable situations, and you can see right into their bedrooms. It was funny after one class because some students popped on their cameras right at the end to wave good-bye, and one was emerging from under her futon, and another emerged with purple hair. I hadn't seen her until then. I work mostly seven days a week. Correcting their homework by email is finicky and very time-consuming compared with whipping your way through a sheaf of papers with a red pen.
Some of the satisfactions are that the students are good at communicating by email, and I can instantaneously help them out instead of waiting till next week. Some students send me emails to thank me, which is very cheering, and I'm surprised at how nice and polite their emails are. I feel less intimidated by computers as I get to spend so much time in front of one. I do actually find myself enjoying solving technical difficulties now where in the past, I was more likely to fantasize taking a hammer to it.
Being an introvert, teaching in front of a computer doesn't take so much adrenaline as standing in front of 35 students and teaching them. I learnt from the Internet recently that when you're stressed, the excess adrenaline breaks down mucous membranes and you collect bits of gunk in the corners of your mouth. I wouldn't vouch for it because the man speaking wasn't a medical person, but I often wondered why that happened to me in class. So maybe the stresses of this style of teaching are balanced out by some advantages. I certainly don't miss the hours of crowded commuting, and I can spend more time with DH.
We're probably going on to some hybrid of class and online teaching next term. Some parts of this experience have made me rethink some of my teaching methods. Maybe it's a pity that I'm only going to be teaching another semester before retiring. Then again......maybe not. I'm certainly looking forward to the summer vacation in two weeks.