Spring Beginnings. Looking ahead…

I came into the spring semester with a bit of apprehension as to how the students will feel especially since we are one year into the pandemic and we are all feeling tired and frustrated. How the students feel is important to me as it is a deciding factor on how much they will learn or not. Their attitude towards the way they learn affects me. How does it affect me? Well for starters, if I see that students do not want to be in my class, I lose a bit of my own enthusiasm and passion. Obviously, I am adult and a professional educator, so I don’t quit on them like they do to me, but I am not as eager to do a live class or go to campus and teach. It also takes me longer to find something to get excited about when the students are indifferent or even worse, negative. Of course, I try not to let that show, but it does sap my energy. If done right, teaching is emotional and feeds off of students’ emotions and reactions. Therefore, if the students are resistant to whatever I have to say then I have to work a lot harder to get them to put down their phones long enough to pay attention, listen to me, and hopefully learn something by the end of class.

So far, the students have do not seem as negative as they were last semester. So far so good. I hope I won’t jinx myself by telling everyone that my students are pretty awesome this semester. They all seemed engaged and happy, this make me wonder if they have finally accepted the fact that they will spend the semester or if they are trying to be patient because there is light at the end of the tunnel since we have two vaccines on the market and two coming. Nevertheless, their reaction so far is making me hopeful that we will be able to get through the semester without any major issues. A semester without any problems is a productive semester.

If I am being honest, I am looking forward to a better time when we are all vaccinated and so we can get back to some sort of normal life. I am still wondering what that will look like, but it is bound to be better than how we are living and working right now and for the last year.

Katherine

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When the emails start flying…

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I don’t know why but I always loved the beginning of school year. As a child, I was always excited to get my new textbooks, notebooks, and pencils. The changing of the season signaled a new beginning…

As a teacher there is nothing like the first day of class during the fall semester as it is hectic and invigorating all at the same time. Now that I teach online I don’t have the same feeling as I did when I taught on campus because it takes my students a few days to get going, but even in an online course there is a flurry of activity. Students are still registering, adding and dropping courses. Logging in to their Blackboard courses, buying textbooks, notebooks, laptops, pens, pencils, etc. Updating their computer software and generally making sure that they are ready to go.

It is always such a fun week as the emails begin arriving filled with students’ messages they are full of questions about the course, the syllabus, assignments, how the course is set up on Blackboard, etc.

My favorite part of the first week is getting to know my students. Besides requesting that they upload their photo to Blackboard I also ask them to create a podcast and introduce themselves. The oral intros give me a better understanding of how they express themselves while speaking. I love listening to their podcasts as it helps me to learn more about them. You can hear their accent if they are ESL/international students, or the nervousness that comes through the audio because some students become extremely anxious as it is the first time they are creating a podcast and they don’t know how to feel about talking into a microphone. On the other hand, I am always impressed with the students as many make their podcasts sound so effortless even though when they blog about it creating the podcast they admit that they had to record their introduction ten to fifteen times before submitting it.

The other activity that I am always eager to do is read is their first written assignment as it provides me with a lot of information about how they express themselves. When I read their words I somehow can envision them in my mind even though I never meet them in person. I can hear their voice coming out. It is like one’s fingerprint, unique and distinct. Although they all write about the same topic not one paper is the same. The nuances in the writing from the choice of words, expressions, syntax to the tenses they decide to use makes each text different. As I read their papers I can hear their voices like I do when I listen to their podcasts. Some nervous, some not so sure, and some confident…

When teaching on campus a lot of the small details fall by the side because you get to see and talk to the students and the visual stimulations take over. On the other hand ,teaching online provides me with the luxury of actually listening to my students even when they are writing to me. Paying attention to the details makes me more aware of their who they are as people since they communicate predominately in writing with me. Not that I didn’t notice before, but because I don’t meet them now and talk to them in person I thought I would lose the connection I had with my students, but interestingly enough I have not. In fact, in many instances I feel I get to know them better than I ever knew many of my on-campus students. The reason is that e-learners are constantly talking to me and their classmates online something that does not always happen in an on-campus course. Remember that not all students talk in a face-to-face course, on the other hand, all of my e-students email me when they have a question as well as post their opinions every week in the blog and online class discussions. So they are constantly interacting, connecting, and collaborating with me and with their classmates throughout the semester. At this point when I don’t receive messages from my students I start to worry. So let the emails continue to fly…

Katherine