Adventures in E-Learning, A Running Diary for Day 1

So, this is the first time in about 13 years I’ve been nervous on a “first day” of school. Not like throw-up nervous. Or will she say “yes” nervous? But mostly is this gonna-be-a-huge-damn-mess nervous.

Before I got my job at FHC, I had six-week gig as a long-term sub in a history classroom. A teacher had been removed, they needed someone to fill the space and I was subbing almost every day in the building anyway. It was great to go to school every day to the same room. It sucked not knowing the content or being nearly as passionate about history as I am about writing and design and photography and broadcast journalism and multimedia and etc., etc.

The secret to teaching is being passionate about the content, not just knowing it. Because the kids feed off your passion and then they’ll learn from your knowledge. Not sure how well my passion will come through via Zoom.

8:57a: Login to Zoom. It’s normal to be nervous before you see students you’ve seen almost every day for six months, right? Right?

9:05a: Class 3/4 full. Gotta admit, I’m kind of surprised this many showed up. But I’m so happy to see my photographers.

9:05–9:15a: I’m the only one talking. Evidently, 9a is the new 720a. Of my six classes, this is going to be the most difficult one to do online. Much of what this class does is dependent on other people — sports, classes, concerts, plays — doing things.

9:20a: Made them look at some ideas for photo/video projects that they can accomplish at home. 1st hour has found their voices.

10:20a: 3rd hour Journalism class files in. About 50 percent of the class showed up. We talk about questions they have about learning online, see how everyone is doing. Several kids don’t turn on their video. Two others only let the class see their eyes and above. Pretty sure they’re texting each other and they don’t think I can tell. Man, it’s like being in my actual classroom. Thanks for the effort on that kids! I lecture for about 10 minutes or so. Try to ask some questions of kids. I don’t like lecturing a ton as it is, so it feels as if I’ve droned on for 30 minutes when 10 minutes ends. Holding attention is going to be an issue.

12:30p: My newspaper staff drops into our first Zoom meeting. Gotta say, at this point, I feel like I need a bit of a win from this group. Need that interaction, need that discussion, need them to just be the group of kids they normally are in Room 139.

12:32p: I have my first (student) Zoom meeting goof-up. One of my students was joining from their hammock in the yard. Which makes me think I need to get mine out (editor’s note: this happened this afternoon). But a couple minutes in, the hammock decided it didn’t like this student, as she fell out of it. Many people laughed at her peril. No students were harmed in the writing of this part of the diary.

1240p: And we are freaking off. They are rolling. We’re brainstorming like it’s a normal issue of the paper in a normal class period. One student is evidently unable to turn on the lights in her bedroom, but we can see her silhouette. And she’s participating, so all good.

1–1:30p: They’re still going. There’s plenty of side discussions, some Zoom chatting and plenty of microphone/slow internet issues. But I’m back where I should be. I’m not sure they can see it, but I’m so content. I’m at peace (but not really) that they’re my same old newspaper staff.

1:39p: Class ends. That went approximately 8,000 times better than I hoped it would. Tons of ideas, great discussion and I’m hopeful about all the amazing ideas they had as we finish up this year.

Teaching online is going to be fucking difficult for these next couple months. Fucking difficult. As we’ve seen with self-quarantining, upending our routines has been one of the most difficult things for people to adjust to. While I tweak things every time I teach content, while I bring in new pieces of writing or photography or design to study each time, or maybe a new activity, routine is vital to me as a teacher. For me, teaching has become a bit like driving.

At the start of your career, it’s all scary, you’re learning all these new things and sometimes you accidentally throw the car into park a second to soon. But after awhile, you just get used to how your classroom flows. Teaching online is not even close to the same as being in a classroom. I’m not sure I have the exact metaphor just yet, but I’ll get there.

YOGA UPDATE: I’ve yoga’d (pretty sure that’s not a word) four of the past five days. I like it a lot. My body is still getting used to it, but it helps center me.

PIANO UPDATE: Yeah, not sure this is gonna take. It would help if I pursued it, I suppose. But Pearl Jam put out a new album last week and that took up a lot of my time, listening to their bangin’ new album.

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