Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Perils of Distance Learning

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" After all these years, my name is still Anne Johnson. Doubt if I'm going to change it now.

Trigger Warning: The following post is depressing. If you're already depressed by this pandemic, give me a pass today and go watch "The Red Green Show" on YouTube.

 Through sheer luck -- bad or good I can't decide -- I became a public school teacher in 2009 and have been doing it ever since.

I think the lucky part of my experience is where I landed in my career pivot to school teacher. I work at a school that serves an inner city population. I don't get much bad attitude in my classes, and when I do, I don't take it personally. It's too easy to imagine the stresses these kids are under at home and at school, where of course some bullying takes place and there are the usual cliques and jocks to contend with.

I've been "teaching" remotely since March 16. That's more than 8 weeks, with 4 more weeks to go. And that part about not taking anything personally has been very difficult to maintain.

Can I speak freely here? Dumb question. Then I'll go ahead and do it.

About a third of my students have either not turned in any work at all, or they have done two or three assignments and disappeared. Some of these kids are students I would somewhat have expected to be off task, but others are kids who had really good grades going into this.

At first I pestered every one of the disappeared students, but lately I have just given up. Who knows what is going on for them right now? And the longer they avoid looking at their classwork, the more it piles up. Right now, 8 weeks in, it would be a herculean task for them to catch up.

I was having a very good year at my school. My students were hard-working and motivated, for the most part. This is fortunate, because the ones who are not performing now had such good grades going in that they are not in danger of failing my class.

But it's really saddening to see what little I can do on the power of my personality.

Oh well, not to be completely demoralized ... the kids who are doing my work right along have high-in-the-sky grades, because the assignments I've been giving are really softball.

 It's hard enough for me to sit here in my quiet house and discipline myself with a good laptop and no other obligations. My students have siblings, they share sub-standard devices, and I'll bet many of them are doing the babysitting while their health care worker parents go into the breach. The virus is still spreading in Camden and Pennsauken, affecting people of all ages. So there's that anxiety too.

Now our administration wants us to do Google Meets where we do Zoom-like meetings with our kids. I set up one of these for each of my classes, gave them plenty of notice and late-day start times, and then I sat with the Meet window open and waited for them. And waited. And waited. Not a single kid signed on. I miss them so much -- clearly they don't feel the same.

Ever had a pair of shoes that don't fit well, but you have to wear them anyway? That's how teaching feels for me. Like, I can walk in it ... but it never fits.

Sorry to vent. Y'all don't need any more whining right now. Just had to get this off my chest.


jenmoon said...

It's a good thing I am not in school now. I would be one of those people who would never be completing the online course work. I've never completed a school-ish online class in my life, I tend to literally forget I signed up for it and it existed. It just doesn't feel like a real class if you can just forget about it and easily ignore it without consequences.

Who the hell knows if anyone who doesn't contact you misses you any more. Or if they're too depressed to make an effort. I don't know any more. I have a lot of people who have disappeared myself.

I describe my own job as a pair of shoes that don't fit, give me blisters, and slice up my feet....but I still have to wear shoes. I won't start on my own whining though :p

Anyway, I'm sorry that you've lost people. There probably isn't anything you can do from a distance, or anything I can do, if people just can't make the effort to keep going on their end.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Online learning takes an incredible amount of self-discipline and motivation, which can only come from inside the students themselves. External factors can prompt some people forward to a certain extent, but largely it's an internal drive, in my opinion. Don't be too hard on yourself, Anne! I don't think your students' performance reflects on you.

e said...

Classroom teaching is bloody hard. Remote teaching is exponentially harder. It must have been disheartening to have absolutely no one log in to your Zoom meet-up. Don't take it personally! As you said, there are all kinds of variables and stressors in the student's lives and households. Discouraging, though, I'm sure.

I doubt it's much comfort, but at least you know that you are doing all the things you are asked to do for your classes. Also, it's hard for every teacher and every student and every parent and this semester will go down in history as a complete fuck up.

Chin up, Anne Johnson!

anne marie in philly said...

I have been reading articles in the inky about this dilemma. you are not alone.

my friend michael is a teacher in VA. he is having the same issues.

vent away, friend. you gotta get it off your chest before you explode.

spouse and I have been working from home since march 23. our gov has us on lockdown til 6/4. both of us wanna go back to work so bad! I saw one of my co-workers today and wanted to hug him; of course, we kept our masks on and our 6' apart outside the office building as we talked. this whole thing fucking sucks ass.

Janie Junebug said...

Are the students who aren't showing up going to fail? It's a rough time for everyone, including you, and I didn't think you were whining.


jono said...

Bummer! Meanwhile, "Gee Uncle Red, what are you doing with that duct tape?"


this is you think some of them are sick? jeez louise..I'm so sorry..

Bohemian said...

Being a School Teacher now would be so difficult that I cannot even imagine how creatively you all will have to be for all of these precious Students in a time of Pandemic! My Granddaughter is Special Needs and has an IEP, she does not do the Online thing well and I've been out of School since before all her Administration were even born, Grandpa has Brain Damage, so it's been hard to do classes with this ancient computer we have and limited Tech skills we all have here at Home. Her new School is Awesome, she will be starting High School whenever they figure out how to resume Public Schooling safely. She's a Medically Fragile Child being raised in a Medically Fragile Family so the whole shebang makes me terrified of being able to keep us all safe when that happens. They have informed Families they plan to start the 1st week in August but I don't see how that's possible since our State's infection and death rates are still on an upwards trajectory so it's way worse than when they closed everything to begin with. So I don't mind your depressing Vent, this whole New World we're all winging it to navigate is scary stuff and my Heart aches for all of the Young People and this inability to be Safe to Socialize, Kids NEED that... Humans NEED that.

Anonymous said...

ditto, plus, these kids of yours sound like they do not have the sort of parents who tell them they have to do their schoolwork now....
--Kim Cooper

Bathwater said...

I was reading a book before all this happened that spoke about how online learning does not work. It is hard to say what those kids are doing right now but without involved parents and the right tools there is no hope they with engage.