Final grades are due tomorrow. My only unmarked assignments are just a handful of final projects with some components I couldn’t evaluate, mostly for some technical reason. It’s been a pretty rough semester, but I’m glad I started prepping for it in July, rethinking and reorganizing and rebuilding lesson plans and assignment sequences with a Covid-necessitated hybrid classroom in mind. Spending a lot of time rethinking the mechanics of my course over the summer let me focus more directly on my students and their work during the year.
When I think of a few students who struggled, I find myself wondering, “What could I have done differently to reach out to that student earlier, or more frequently, or in a different way?”
But overall, it’s been a good term. I put some effort into setting up my office workstation, even ordering a $22 remote control setup from Amazon so that I can adjust my lights at the click of a button, without having to stand up and stretch for the switches. (I confess that I sometimes mimic Captain Picard and say, “Computer, studio lights.”)
I have an auditory processing disorder, for which I have self-accommodated by gradually become dependent on lip-reading to help me follow individual conversations — so I learned when I tried to interact with colleagues or even family members. My ears pick up the sounds just fine, but in a room full of fans, with background chatter and open windows and everyone socially distant, everything sounds like a roar of white noise, with occasional syllables I could identify. During one training session, I was so jealous of the colleagues who were attending remotely I left the in-person meeting and signed in again from my office down the hall.I explained all this to my students on the first day of class, and they were very patient. Once we normalized that in every class some students would be attending via Zoom and some would be attending in person, it was really no trouble asking in-person students to speak into their mics — “so the students attending by Zoom can hear you too,” but also so that I could focus on the sounds that Zoom transmitted through my earbuds. And sometimes an in-person student would raise their hand to say, “I just typed a question in the chat box for you.”We figured it out.
I plan to keep my “If you feel sick, don’t come to class — attend remotely” syllabus policy, but I feel some students took advantage of my “cameras are optional” policy.One day I had back-to-back discussion sessions where one set of students left their cameras off, and a different group turned them on. Maybe both sets of students learned what they needed to know, but I hated every moment I spent staring at those black squares.I felt tempted to stop talking, turn off my camera and just sit there, not bothering to try to engage them.”I showed up,” I wanted to say. “Ask me yes/no questions. I’ll respond with an icon.”I didn’t give in to that particular temptation.