I have lots of thoughts about today, our first day into a semester that we’re hoping will be “back to normal” and yet very clearly isn’t. But my main feeling, at the end of it all, is that I actually feel like a teacher again.
I suspect that if we had gone all-in on remote teaching, I might feel differently about the past year. But hybrid teaching, with its demands to provide both in person and remote students an equal experience, and the compromises that meant on both sides, left me feeling like I spent as much energy each class session directing traffic as I did attending to the learning taking place.
Today, I walked into the classroom with my printed out roster and notes and a couple of pens, and I looked at my students, and greeted them, and learned their names, and had a conversation without watching for a raised hand icon or chat message. Nobody was a black rectangle with a name in the middle. In retrospect, perhaps we should have all been issued t-shirts with that image on it so we could recognize each other from this past year.
Today, I walked around the classroom. I looked at computer screens. I read error messages. I fixed typos. And it was much more efficient and interactive than I ever managed with technology sitting in the middle.
Today, I wrote on the whiteboard and it was as glorious as I thought it would be.
Today, I spotted the look of a student who has something to say but isn’t sure they’re a “speak on the first day of class” type of student and learned that, even wearing a mask, good eye contact and a smile can break through that hesitancy and result in a raised hand. And I had to wonder, how many of those moments did I miss last year because someone’s camera was off or I just missed that look in the obscurity of video.
Today, class wrapped up, and students came up to talk or ask questions, and I did not have to shoo them out. I didn’t have to ask them to leave so I could sanitize their desks and keyboards and mice for the next professor, and unhook my technology, and sanitize myself, and scurry next door to set it all back up for my next class, in just ten minutes.
It was not perfect. It was stressful having the building so full and having every seat in my classroom filled, after a year of low occupancy. Masks were not always fitted properly in place. And we know that campus is not COVID free. We’ve already been told of students getting tested and possibly needing to start the term remote, and we’ll be having to find ways to include them – which means some amount of hybrid teaching still taking place. I have reacquainted myself with my OWL. I have a Teams site made for each course, just in case. And I’m thinking about whether I should plan to get myself tested periodically, now that the college is no longer testing me. I’m aware that, yet again, despite all of the precautions in place, because of my job I am the biggest potential vector for bringing COVID into my family, and there is a decent chance I could do so while being entirely asymptomatic.
But today, I taught and I loved it.