I plan to teach in person when classes begin next month. Yes, the virus is surging and there’s little sign it’ll be under control in August. But everyone – instructors and students – will be wearing masks in Carroll Hall where I teach. Classrooms have been designated with six-foot distancing capacities, which creates a teaching challenge that I’ll discuss later.
I had the option to teach remotely, which means using Zoom, but going to campus and being in a classroom with students is a no-brainer for me. I taught for six weeks on Zoom in the spring and didn’t like it. I wasn’t very good with it, and I missed the students. One of the big reasons I teach is to get to know the students — they’re smart and fun and engaging. You just can’t do that as effectively online. (OK, boomer.) And I don’t think they learn as effectively online.
People have asked me how I can feel safe teaching students who, perhaps the night before, were at He’s Not Here, drinking, laughing with, breathing on and touching others, shoulder to shoulder. My response is always the same: “I go to the grocery store several times a week and I’m usually about the only one there wearing a mask or keeping my distance in the produce aisle. I think I can handle a classroom where everyone is masked and six feet away.”
The rub is that, because of the six-foot distancing rule, classrooms have new, limited, capacities. Many seat only 10 or 12 people. That means I will divide my 20-student classes into two sections, post lectures online for them to watch at their convenience, and have less face-to-face time with them.
Not ideal, and we’ll see how it goes. It would be easier to be completely remote. I wouldn’t have the commute or the gas and parking expenses. I’d save two hours a day not in the car. But I admit that part of the allure is the challenge of figuring a new way to teach, reinventing courses I’ve taught for several semesters. It will give me new skills to be better when we return to normalcy.
Of course, in truth, I’m confident the campus will be closed down by mid-September and I’ll be teaching remotely anyway. The coronavirus has no respect for the “full on-campus experience.”