Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Online Teaching and Offline Infections

I have a lot of questions about doing this online. Who's paying attention, for one? Most of my students have pictures up where their faces should be. Sometimes I call on them and they show their faces. Sometimes they don't. How do I know that the kid isn't on the other side of the room playing a game on his phone?

One kid yesterday wasn't responding when I called on him. When he finally did, it was in the chat. How do I know it was him? Another student who was not that great orally did fabulously when answering in the chat. However, I also notice when she logged in there were two names. Perhaps the person she was with was the one typing the answers. Who knows?

I honestly cannot imagine giving a graded assessment of any sort. How will I know the students themselves answered? I see that the DOE doesn't want to grant tenure while the schools are closed. That point may be moot because most tenure occurs in September, and I really, really hope we're back by then. Of course the DOE is infested with Bloomberg leftovers who want to do everything "for the kids." That means, essentially, "Screw the grownups." It's pretty short-sighted because those kids we're doing for are headed toward being grownups. But I digress.

If teachers are not getting tenure because we aren't really in school somehow, how are we supposed to grade students who somehow aren't there either? We are either working or we are not, students are either learning or they are not, and we have to show flexibility in this time of emergency. It's awful that the DOE wants to extend the tenure of people who've been chasing it for four years. Principals who need the extra few months to decide simply haven't been paying attention.

As for my students, I'm not really inclined to ask them to show their faces right now. I'd like them to be comfortable above all else. That said, it's impossible to gauge their interest without seeing them. Not only that, it's very tough to measure the quality of their work in any way under these circumstances. If I were in a classroom, I'd be walking around all the time to find out exactly what was going on. I can't do that.

I'm going to encourage them to show their faces, but I have no idea whether or not I can require it. Ultimately I won't. I know teachers who are terrified of showing their faces on camera. How could I expect that kids would feel any less insecure than grownups? As if that were not enough, this is a very stressful time. I have students who were raised to sit down, shut up, and worship the teacher as a deity. It sounds awful. And some are painfully shy. One of the best things I do is get kids like that out of their shells. Online that is a very tall order.

Some of my students report that all they do is play video games all day, every day. Now I've gone on game binges from time to time. Years ago, I'd close my eyes at night and see Tetris bricks floating down. Now, I don't even get started because I know it's just a huge time suck. Are the students happy to have their game play interrupted? At least one said yes. She deemed playing games all day boring. That made me happy.

But happiness isn't everything. Yesterday I found out there were two confirmed cases of the virus in our building. I'm not really sure what we're supposed to do when we hear that. It's like, "Now that you're finally home, here's an extra thing to worry about." Should we panic? Jump out a window? Should all 5,000 people in the building be tested? I'd say yes to the last. But of course, they say the best way to get tested is to sneeze in a rich person's face and wait for the results.

It's kind of funny the city said oh, if we confirm a case, we'll close the school. (We now know they didn't even do that.) How could they not know that there were cases everywhere? I just assumed it. I was walking around telling people, "For all we know, we all have it." We really have no way of knowing otherwise. The fact that almost no one was being tested, that there were outlandish obstacles preventing people from being tested, exacerbated the situation. Of course the very worst thing was Bill de Blasio's pigheaded witless decision to keep the schools open even as he deemed Broadway too dangerous.

What do I tell my students? How can I reassure them? I only hope they aren't watching the news. I know what it has to say already. You have to be a masochist to sit and listen to this. You just need to move forward and do the best you can. My online teaching will get better, and so will the country.

If only Joe Biden could crawl out of his coffin and prove he can survive exposure to daylight, we'd really have something to look forward to.
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