Community College Teaching in Today’s Environment, answering questions from my college newspaper

Were you teaching online classes, in person classes, or both?How has the transition been for you to online teaching?
How will you teach differently as you move forward?

During the winter 2020 semester, all my classes were face-to-face; they all moved fully online later in March. With students already having been completing all their assignments online, except for group presentations in the classroom, the transition to the fully online classroom was seamless. Students in my summer and fall classes didn’t have the advantage of beginning the semester face-to-face, where peers and myself could look over a struggling student’s shoulder at their computer screen, to help them navigate Blackboard and to understand assignment instructions. Many summer students were expecting face-to-face classes, but ended up having to take online classes; acclimating themselves to the online environment, without the advantage of beginning the semester face-to-face, proved especially challenging for many. Those who hung in there, though, who toughed it out and got the help they needed for navigating Blackboard and practiced the extra required diligence, succeeded. This fall semester still brought its share of incoming students uninitiated to online learning, but less so. After the first half of the semester, students seemed well acclimated to online learning. With all the knowledgeable and helpful GRCC staff and their well equipped departments, students and faculty couldn’t ask for better assistance! 

I expect next semester will be smoother yet; I’ll continue teaching much the same as I have been, using Zoom, Screencasts, phone calls, podcasts, email, Announcements, Discussion Board posts and replies, group debate projects using Google Docs, peer-editing, individual debate projects, and project presentations using YouTube or SnagIt or an MP3 upload. 

What is the biggest challenge for students that you are seeing?What have you learned throughout this experience?

Learning Blackboard’s bells and whistles is a nuisance to some, but that’s nothing a positive attitude, a willingness to ask for help, and a decent work ethic can’t surmount. Sharing internet wifi and physical space with several others who also must work or study from home, and feeling isolated from peers–here are serious challenges. Having to attend Zoom meetings from your garage, working around family members who don’t respect your need for a quiet study environment, seeing a loved one who lost their job abusing alcohol or opioids–if not committing suicide, hearing gun fire throughout the city (especially my area in the SE), experiencing anxiety and depression…not so easy to deal with! Teachers now must be more flexible, understanding, and compassionate than ever, even while maintaining academic rigor. 

What frustrations have you encountered?How are you dealing with COVID-19 and the newest stay-at-home order?Is there anything else you would like to add?

As an extraverted person, accustomed to teaching sometimes with an animated, theatrical approach, online teaching isn’t the same. I greatly miss personal communication with my students–Zoom meetings, phone calls, and emailing just can’t make up for that. Similarly, I miss dropping in on my peers, faculty and staff from Language and Thought, from The Arts and Science office, and DLIT, wasting their time with my ranting as they would politely humor me. As a coffeeholic, I miss hanging out for hours reading at coffee shops (Penera Bread, Starbucks, Biggby, The Bitter End…). 
With all the travel time and money I’m saving, given the social isolation mandate, though, I have bumbled into various new interests: oil lamps, hunting and fishing equipment, and ham radio, picking up a few state licenses along the way, The Great Reset (The Fourth Revolution, Agenda 2030, “building back better”), that we’re presently experiencing provides us with a unique opportunity to reflect deeper than we normally might. One more likely becomes aware of being part of something greater than one’s self. This is good for Philosophy–and, as a Philosophy Instructor, I believe that what’s good for Philosophy is good! OK, self-serving and shallow of me, I know. Seriously, though, being thankful and caring, rather than bitter and hateful, go a long way in maintaining peace of mind through these turbulent times. 

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