Yesterday was my 49th birthday. It was surprisingly busy. I got up early and wrote a sermon and then went to the church to record it (4 of us distancing in a sanctuary meant for something like 600). The others left, and I preached to our young adult videographer. He liked my message. I picked up lunch for Computerguy and me from a local Mexican place (kids were still asleep. It’s been strange times.) He took his lunch back into the office and got back to work. I sat at the table and ate alone. (This sounds sad. It really wasn’t.) The kids woke up eventually and offered me very sweet birthday wishes. The girl had drama class and we did piano lessons. Then the boy and I made ribs. The kids made a cake. When the ribs were finished I cooked steaks. We had dinner and the girl had to go off to a special evening class meeting. After her class was over, we had cake and I opened cards. I got lovely text messages and Facebook messages throughout the day, and my friend from Tennessee called as she always does. It was a good day, but it was an odd day. Everyone was busy with their own stuff. Sunday, Mother’s Day, was much more focused on me. A Tuesday is still a Tuesday.
My mom continues in assisted living. She has grown tired of not going out, not seeing us. We did take over a gift for Mother’s Day and saw her through a window, darkly. This is the hardest thing for me. Photos below: My kids and my mom on Monday. My brother and me and our mom many years ago.
Today is my last class day for the Spring semester. Given issues of accessibility for students and the nature of our emergency online instruction, I have tried to be super flexible. I’ve offered Zoom meetings every class time, but I have also offered written discussion boards and made them either/or. There is a small group of students who have shown up every class. There are a few other students who have floated between Zoom and discussion board classes. We had 3 presentations that needed to be done, and all of the involved students were able to make it to Zoom on those days. I recorded those presentations, and other students watched and commented. While I’ve really appreciated the involvement of my little group of Zoomers, I’ve been impressed with the students who have diligently shown up on the discussion boards as well.
For this one day, I am attempting to recreate my in-class final day of the semester. On the last day, I ask the students to choose one piece from the semester to read aloud to the class. I don’t ask them to explain themselves, just to read. If someone chooses the same piece as someone else, they are welcome to read the same piece. If it’s worth reading once, it’s worth reading as many times as it’s chosen. The students don’t tend to take me up on that. If someone else reads their piece, they choose a new one. Mostly, with 2000 pages of text, they don’t pick the same pieces. Many read poems, some read excerpts from novels or plays. It’s always fascinating to see what they choose. When they finish, I offer them the opportunity to comment on the pieces and, if they wish, to explain why they chose their piece. I am encouraging students to come join the Zoom, but I have also set up a discussion board with a record function for them to record themselves if they prefer. I’m also offering a place on the final exam to fulfill this requirement if they were not able to do it in another why. I’m trying to take all situations in account.
Some students have been sporadic, and I am concerned about them. At least one student is thriving in a way they weren’t before. They had trouble making it to class, but they are making it to every written discussion board. We have been told we will continue to be online in the fall. Knowing it ahead of time and not transitioning suddenly to online learning, I am wondering how to shape the course. I am not sure I can sustain a double class, and I’m not sure how the Zoom group will work when the students haven’t lived in to the routine of circle discussions every day in my class. I’m also finding a discussion board every class day + discussions for group activities + regular discussion boards we were already doing is way too much. If I teach it as a true online course, I would limit that considerably. However, it’s still not a true online course. It’s a face-to-face class being taught online in emergency circumstances. I’m not sure how to parse that, but I have a summer to work it out.
One aspect of this that is satisfying to me, my spouse is working from home in the same office and he is enjoying listening in on my classes.
The kids are doing okay. Their school is giving them work, but not overdoing it. They have Zoom meetings a couple times a week. Mostly they’re working on their own. The girl is managing her schoolwork herself, and we’re having her do online drama class some weeks. The Girl Scouts are trying to work on some online badges. The boy needs a little more parental supervision. A fun part of this is the book his class is reading is one that was given to me by a student many years ago, and we are enjoying reading it together. He’s also become very interested in cooking “from scratch.” So that’s been fun to watch and support and encourage.
I suppose that’s enough for now.