Recess

I haven’t had a lot of free time lately. Really, for the last year. So there has been limits posts, limited dating, and limited stories in general. I have a few minutes to myself, so allow me to explain why.

Last summer, I agreed to teach an Advanced Placement Computer Science class for the Online School for Girls. It seemed like a perfect way for me to be able to continue teaching while still having a full time job as a computer scientist.

OSG is absolutely fabulous and the girls are amazing. They were started by a consortium of girls schools, including my teaching Alma Mater. The idea being that girls schools can offer OSG classes to supplement the classes they offer. Those classes they don’t have enough students to fill a class or hire a teacher for. It is a brilliant idea. And for the most part, it is well executed. I was an exception.

I really wanted this to work, but my heart wasn’t in it. Turns out, online teaching is all the stuff I hate about teaching and none of the stuff I love about it. And this isn’t anything against OSG, it is me. I wasn’t a good fit.

My style of teaching included taking a shower in the morning and deciding what I wanted to talk about that day. When asked by administrators for syllabi, I made some up and the students pretended I’d given it to them in advance. In reality, I winged it.

Class, to me, was very fluid, very experimental. I could see when the girls weren’t getting it and would change what I was doing midstream. In an online environment, it is necessary to plan well in advance. I’d have to create a syllabus for the whole year. And I’d have to create video lectures well in advance. I hate, HATE, seeing myself in video. I also hate grading. And that was the only way I could evaluate how the girls were doing. But in an in-person class, I had a much better idea of how the girls were doing without actual grades.

I want to reiterate that I believe OSG is doing online classes the right, effective way. I just wasn’t a good fit. It isn’t my style. I think there are many teachers who would thrive in this environment, but I wasn’t one of them. Choosing teachers for teaching online classes is like anything, you have to find the right person for the job. I wanted to be the right person, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t be. It wasn’t my nature.

So I spent all my nights and weekends working on the class I was failing at. And it killed me. I resented it and hated that I felt that way. When I was told in the spring that they were taking my class in a different direction, I was relieved and said it was the right thing to do. I needed out. I hadn’t bonded with the girls. When I’d been teaching in a classroom, my girls used to fight about which class was my favorite. I’m friends with many of the girls who were in my classes. I have dinner with them when they are in Cali. But my OSG girls don’t feel the same. And it makes me sad. There are only a handful that I felt connected to and I can only blame myself for not reaching out to them.

That is what took most of my year. Since then there was some yearly conference I had to prepare for, a bunch of deadlines, and medical problems with my pets. So there has been no free time. No time to write. No free expression. I’ve missed it. And I promise I will make some more time for myself. For you.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mom on July 15, 2012 at 4:30 am

    I understand, for all those reasons in reverse is why I never took an online course. I needed the classroom interaction in order to learn. Maybe I’m just ‘old-fashioned’! Teaching on line is impersonal. Now on to other wonderful things!

    Reply

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