Archeological Insight: Who WAS that Teacher?

In the drama over the demise of the WordPress Daily Prompt, I went to my old Blogger sites to see about maybe you know, switching back? I haven’t looked at those sites for years. Among them are two I developed for my classes. One of them from WAY back before I evolved and changed, way back in 2011.

At the time, I was teaching five sections of basic business communication at San Diego State and several different composition classes at a couple of community colleges. The composition classes were online, hybrid and in the classroom. Being an adjunct teacher is a lot like being the cowboy who’s told to “dance” just before the other cowboy starts shooting at his feet. You have to be ready to do any and everything at the last minute. I taught online classes for as long as there have been online classes because — unlike many English teachers — I’ve always been interested in and comfortable with computers.

Many students signed up for those classes because they didn’t want to go to school or they thought it was an easy way out. It didn’t occur to them that an online class was basically “all writing, all the time.” After a few years, I understood this well and the very first page of a very detailed (cover-your-ass-so-we-don’t-get-sued-by-little-Johnny’s-helicopter-parents) syllabus was actually MEANT to discourage people from signing up. The goal was to help those who DID take the class succeed and to direct students who would not succeed into classes where they would have a better chance. More than traditional classes, online classes depend on reading and writing fluency. There’s no one to talk things over with.

This is a very important class for building a foundation for good writing and thinking skills that you will need throughout the rest of your education and in your life. Writing is a skill everyone uses in EVERY field of work. You will need to be a good writer regardless of your major or planned career.

In any online class, you bear a large part of the responsibility for your OWN learning. This is NOT the best choice if you’re a student who hates English, who hasn’t done well in English classes in the past, and is a second-language learner without native speaker proficiency.  

 Q: Why do most students take online or hybrid classes?
A: Convenience! Most students who choose distance learning choose it because they feel that they can work on their own when it’s convenient for them. Great, huh?
Fact: Online/hybrid classes require MORE self-motivation than traditional, face-to-face classes. They require excellent time management skills and the ability to work without a teacher pushing or praising you. Students need to be very self-motivated and organized to do well in an online class. 
It will be up to you to review lectures, take quizzes, post homework, participate in the discussion forum. You will find lectures online, information about writing online, grammar and reading comprehension exercises online and you are responsible for doing them just as you would be in a 16/17 week traditional class meeting in a classroom with the teacher standing over you waiting for you to hand in your homework. 
Important Things to Think About Before Taking this Class:
  • If you are NOT self-motivated and willing to work very hard for the length of this class learning to write, somewhat on your own, drop this class ASAP.
  • If you “work well under pressure” (meaning you are a person who procrastinates) drop this class NOW.
  • If you think that an online writing class is a good way to “get it over with” an online class is not your best choice. Online classes involve a major time commitment and unless you are organized, motivated and focused, it is very easy to fall behind.
  • Your homework will be posted online where your classmates can read it. If you are uncomfortable letting others read your writing or taking and receiving constructive criticism from your professor and your classmates that others will read, drop this class NOW.

If you are uncomfortable using computers, but you still want to take an online class, take an introductory course to computers FIRST. Your experience will be MUCH better in an online class if you don’t have to learn to use computers too.

If you are not sure about your ability to handle an online class, here are two surveys you can take to assess your aptitude in this area. Answer HONESTLY. It’s for your own benefit to know yourself well and to get the most from a class.

For those mature and motivated enough, the online writing class was usually a good choice and they learned a lot.  Once the mechanical agonies were over, things got good. Reading this made me happy this morning.

How to Comment on the Work of Your Classmates

When you comment on your classmates’ work, open their thread, read what they have written, then press the Reply button. That is the space in which you can comment.

Please write something more than, “I thought it was great.” The hard thing for writers is to know how their writing comes across to other people. To get credit for commenting (worth 1/2 grade point to you) really TELL your classmate what you read. Tell them when something makes sense (and tell them what it is) and tell them when something doesn’t. Comments like, “Great job!” aren’t very helpful when your teacher comes along later and writes more suggestions for correcting your homework than you wrote for your homework. Remember: writing concrete and useful comments to your classmates about their work will help your grade just as reading their comments and applying useful suggestions to your own writing will help your grade.

Things to look for:

  • Small grammar problems (sentence fragments, spelling)
  • Something beautiful
  • Something confusing
  • Places where your classmate’s work doesn’t make sense
  • Places where your classmate’s work makes GREAT sense

Give examples in your comment so your classmate can get concrete help and encouragement from you. Ideally you will write at least 100 words.

I remembered how well this had worked out; how enthusiastically and helpfully my students usually commented on their classmate’s work. I thought of the online classes I taught that turned into communities of writers.

I cared SO MUCH about this in 2011, more than did my students, certainly more than did my bosses who just wanted a competent warm body to plug into a slot on the schedule.

That’s the thing about education. It’s predicated on the dedication of teachers. As school shooting is followed by school shooting I wonder that teachers even go to school, but there they go, trucking off with the white board markers they bought themselves, their lesson plans, their iPads, their laptops, their dreams for their students. There they are, staying up until the wee hours, worried about the kid who seems to be suffering from some secret trouble that’s affecting his/her work. There they are, staying late to help a kid understand a story, polynomial equations, the thesis statement. There they are, sitting in the bleachers, sun in their eye, perspiration running down their back in the rented regalia showing the colors of their university, during an interminable graduation ceremony because a student asked them to give him/her his/her diploma. Who does that? What other career “demands” that?

Yesterday I took my walk and on my way home, saw my neighbor outside and stopped to talk. As we were talking, my OTHER neighbor from across the street came running over with rhubarb cake for me. ❤ We were instantly in an animated and funny conversation about being pulled over for making a rolling stop and then arguing with the cop. At one point I said to my neighbor (a retired teacher) “We have that teacher look, E. We kind of scare people.”

We had to laugh. But I’ve seen her when the kids and young teachers walk by on their way to the park. Her face lights up, “School kids! Young teachers!” and she has to say hi to all of them that she knows. And that enthusiasm is really the jist of it. I wanted my students to succeed; I honestly and sincerely cared very much about that even if it meant starting the semester with a tough-love message telling them to drop my class.

If you’re interested in participating:

Saturday: Mary, Cactus Haiku
Sunday: Patty, Lovenlosses
Monday:  Sgeoil
Tuesday: Lorna, Gin and Lemonade
Wednesday: Curious Cat
Thursday: Tracy, Reflections of an Untidy Mind
Friday: Steph, Curious Steph

17 thoughts on “Archeological Insight: Who WAS that Teacher?

  1. I am of the opinion, that those that actually did take your classes, learned and remembered long afterwards. When a teacher loves their job, they instil that love in students, I know mine did, but then I was fortunate. I only had one teacher that was a bust and I wondered even as a small child, why she bothered. She was in her 30’s and I was in grade 4. If it were up to her, I’d have run hard and fast into the netherworld never to be seen again, lol.

  2. What fabulous advice to students starting a class. Real guidance on what will be required, even if you aren’t literally standing at the front of a classroom. I can tell from this what a treat your classes were for those who were willing, able and ready to work hard and learn. Hooray for teachers–the unsung (and oft-maligned) heroes of the world. Going to my sister in laws retirement party tonight–35 years, half elementary classroom, half principal. Lots of teachers in my lineage.

    • I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, but since I took that road and did my best, I’m pretty satisfied. Teachers give a lot to their students, more than they even realize at the time, I think. You just respond and there it is. Congratulations to your sister-in-law!!!

      • It has certainly been my experience that many teachers I know give so much to their students, and as your recognize, often more than is recognized by either party.

  3. I had some good teachers, but we never ever met them outside of school. It just never happened, no close encounters of the third kind. I had the feeling that our teachers never had a personal life. They were somehow in a retort that was opened every morning.

    • My students thought the same — but then one saw me at the supermarket. It shocked him. “What do you eat?” he said, not even “Hello Professor.” So funny.

  4. I can really understand why someone might think the convenience of “online” beats out the schlepping and parking and all that. But college was fun and not because of classes, but because I met ALL my friends there. Literally, win a couple of exceptions where I made friends at work, all my best friends go back to college days — including Garry. I honestly think that even if you are the most devoted online student in the world, you don’t build a lifetime of friends if you never leave home.

    • If you’re a non-traditional student with a job and two kids, online can make college possible. That was a demographic that was a lot less common when we were in college, I think.

  5. Notes on being met by students — or in Garry’s case, fans: “You mean you SHOP? Yourself? Don’t you have PEOPLE to do it for you?” He still gets that even today and he has been retired for almost 18 years.

  6. I think it is great to know these expectations up front. Presumably you still have to pay money for the online courses and you wouldn’t want students wasting their money (this does not include the Australian vocational education system).

    I had a really wonderful French teacher in highschool. She was French, and as wide and as tall as I am now. She was also very strict, but helpful. A lot of other students didn’t take to her, but I loved her.

  7. Great post. Absolutely right, teachers are such dedicated creatures. We keep turning up no matter what because it is all about the kids, and our love and drive for their success. I had to laugh about the teacher son’s friends used to comment to him about my teacher stare…hey, no words needed in the hallways, just the look!

    This past weekend was my father-in-laws 90th birthday celebration. My brother-in-law, retired teacher, was the main lead in the organizing. Every time on of us other strong willed teacher went to say, “I think we should”…he just gave us the look and used it! lol

    • A long time ago when I was in high school I taught Vacation Bible school with an older lady, Mabel Berkowitz. She was wonderful, unforgettable woman (clearly). One day she grabbed my upper arm in “that” way and I said, “Mabel, you’re a teacher.”

      “How do you know?” she asked. She’d been retired for at least 15 years.

      When my friend here reminisces about something she taught — she did today, actually, she came bounding across the street to keep me company on my slow travail up and down my street — she gets so excited. I love it.

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