Recovering the Joy of Teaching after an Online Pivot
I clearly remember the immediate frenzy of activity that followed my father-in-law’s death from cancer at age 49. We were devastated by the loss, but we were so busy that we didn’t feel the deep and lasting pain until later, when the funeral was over and the out-of-town guests had gone. I expect something similar to happen with the Great Pivot Online Crisis of 2020.
In the first few weeks of the pandemic, a lot of faculty members were rushing out of their comfort zone, moving their face-to-face courses online, and figuring out how to teach from home with kids and pets. As head of a teaching center on my campus, I am seeing many of my earnest colleagues overcome their nerves and experiment with unfamiliar modes of instruction. They are excitedly posting their first attempts at recording mini-video lectures and drafting syllabus statements of flexibility and support for students.
But how long will that fizz last? After all, many faculty members are sacrificing much of what they love about their chosen vocation. At some point, they will need time to mourn the loss of spring 2020.
It’s only natural that folks will start to feel discouraged, disillusioned, and even grief-stricken once the initial frenzy of pivoting online has died down and the reality of remote instruction — day in and day out, for the rest of the semester — sinks in, without even the prospect of commencement to look forward to.
I’ve taught hundreds of online classes over the past 12 years, so I’m well aware that it can feel like a grind, if you let it. Teaching online, as I’ve
, can feel detached, remote, and impersonal. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that your students are people and to let your teaching become a to-do list of administrative tasks and a mountain of grading. I’ve worked hard to overcome that sense of drudgery — to rediscover the joy of teaching when, like a candle deprived of oxygen, it flickers and dies out in a sterile online classroom. And you can, too. There are ways to recover your fizz, as you face the weeks ahead.
First, don’t ignore your feelings. I encourage you to pay attention to them more than usual during the rest of this semester from hell. As Kevin Gannon
, "This is not the semester I ordered." Slow down from time to time and take note of what feels good and bad about your online pivot.
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What I Love about Teaching
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As we are doing goodness in pivoting to the online environment, I would like you to share with me what you are doing. I'm thinking we can potentially publish what we are doing.
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