Faking a Connection

Even with 45 students in one class, teaching twice a week has always been more or less all-consuming. This semester, I have four times as many students in two different courses. Time flies when you teach four days a week.

I’m teaching from home via Zoom. A grad student sets it up so students see me on a big screen and I can see the classroom. Few if any students attend face-to-face classes. Most opt to attend via Zoom. I assume the rest watch the recordings.

My goal is always to make every student feel like I know them. It’s an illusion created with individualized feedback on every assignment. Grading takes FOREVER with nearly 200 students, but I can’t do it any other way.

My assignments revolve around real life. Students disclose a lot about family situations, feelings, fears, and hopes for the future. Assigning a grade without comment would be heartless. My remarks are upbeat and positive–things they’d hear from an encouraging and supportive uncle.

In person classes expose my deception. Remembering individual stories and attaching names to faces is a challenge made worse by my vision. Calling people by the wrong name or giving them a blank look gives me away. Maintaining the illusion via Zoom is MUCH easier.

This semester, I’ve received more positive comments from students than ever. True, I have four times as many, but I’m hearing from maybe ten times as many as in previous semesters. To say I’ve been touched is a huge understatement.

The terms of my retirement prohibit me from working for the university in any capacity for four months. After that, they can hire me to teach a class or two. Whether I’d want to or not has been the question. The answer gets a little clearer every day. I’ll keep you posted.