I can't get the poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" out of my head...
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
I'm not in a war zone, and not in nearly as much danger as your average roofer, I'm sure. Still, I'm worried.
I did my first class observation as chair the other day. The class was super, as I'd expected, but I couldn't help feeling a bit on edge. As chair, I'm going to be doing a fair number of class observations this semester, most in person, sitting in an empty chair amongst the students, all of us masked, all of us socially distanced, and still.
The administrators tell us that the public health people assure them that the masks and social distance works really well to make the risk of transmission really low. But sitting there for over an hour the other day, I was still worried.
I'd be a bit reassured, I supposed, if the administrators were making their presence on campus felt, walking between classes with folks. But I see on effbee that some are working from home, and others are hunkered in their offices, staying far from the rest of us plebians.
Most of our students are being reasonably careful in classes, but what of the weekends? The bars? I doubt they're empty these days.
And the dorms are already a concern.
Several of my students have decided not to come to class, but to attend virtually, and since I organized my class so that they could do that, thinking that there'd be some quarantined at some point, it's fine by me. I did a check in with the class on Friday, and most were feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and worried, pretty much like everyone I know.
I'm hearing from colleagues that they're hearing from students who want to attend virtually, too. And some are able to accommodate that, and willing, and some aren't.
One colleague resents that students feel that they should get to stay safely at home when my colleague doesn't get to do that. But officially, none of us is supposed to be so worried that we feel staying home is imperative.
It feels like we instructors are caught in the middle between administrators tucked in their offices insisting that we all have to teach face to face, and students who don't want to be face to face, and the administrative pressure to help those students who are quarantined keep up, but not caring about the students who are anxious...
I went to a training session by our teaching center folks, the ones who act like they know so much more about teaching than anyone else, even though most of them have never stood in front of a real class to teach it. Anyway, they said we could take attendance through our streaming system. That sounded good. But I couldn't find my notes, so I went to their site to try to find the ppt they'd used, which is supposed to be available. (They're not.) So I asked in a 9 am Q&A session. And the person showed me. So I went to do it, and it lists students by first name and then last name, and some with middle names. Unlike EVERY other thing done by any large organization ever... So I went back to the Q&A session, and the facilitator sounded like she'd never even thought of how to move from the list to the official attendance record. So she decided to show me on her fake class of five... and started taking out the middle names, one at a time. I stopped her and said she couldn't do that because it wasn't practical for a large class (where about 20% of my students show middle names). And she was befuddled. I wanted to say: put 150 students in there, and then come back to me and show me how to do this without a massive work around.
There's no way to do it without a massive work around, apparently. So I suggested she needed to contact the provider and let them know this would be a good feature. And she said no, she couldn't do that, that they weren't going to change things.
But here's the thing: I bet thousands of instructors would find that useful across the country, and if the company doesn't get told, doesn't have customers INSISTING, then they're going blithely on with crap.
I dropped by some friends' house yesterday afternoon to drop some stuff off, and they invited me to dinner, so we had lovely hot soup in the back yard, socially distanced and all. But it was chilly. And soon it will be far to chilly for dinner outside to be pleasant. I'm so going to miss that.
I feel that dread! I'm on the committee evaluating candidates for tenure and promotion, and it's a real challenge finding effective ways to observe teaching. Some classes aren't big enough to allow in-person observations with social distancing, and some observers have excellent reasons to avoid in-person observations, and some classes are partly in person and partly online...and every time we get one problem figured out, a new one arises. And our IT people are doing their best to smooth the path, but sometimes we're stuck with systems that just weren't designed with this kind of situation in mind. As if we needed one more problem to deal with this semester!ReplyDelete
Caught in the middle, charge of the light brigade, feeling that dread? I believe that the humane thing, the life-saving thing, would be for your university to offer faculty and students the option to teach and learn (and be a chair) entirely online, until we have a reasonably effective vaccine.ReplyDelete
If you can convince our headmaster, I would support that 100%.ReplyDelete
I doubt that anything short of a serious outbreak would convince the administrators in the high towers to do that. Evidently they are willing to lose a percentage of students, faculty and staff in exchange for business even if it's not as usual. Even my university, which has a $4 billion endowment, has decided to bring 2/3 of the student body back to campus this semester.ReplyDelete