I started teaching remotely on March 31, 2020, which means that I’ve now done almost 7 months of it. While that’s slightly less than a lot of other post-secondary academics I know, I have had the experience of starting (and nearly ending) two terms of classes which is a side-effect of the relatively short quarter system. A lot of other people have written more eloquently about the experience than I can ever hope to do, so I’m going to focus here on one thing: connecting with students.
I don’t think that anyone will argue with me when I say that it’s harder to connect with students when you don’t see them in person. While Zoom works well with the kind of teaching I do, not seeing their faces and only hearing their voices when I specifically call on them is tough. There’s a reason that this kind of thing has circulated on social media a lot:
I teach a lot to the void. And I don’t feel as connected with them as a result. But sometimes I get a glimmer of the kind of connection I used to have with my students in pre-pandemic in-person classes, and one such thing happened in the past week.
In my night class I gave them a midterm for the first part of class last week and then scheduled a class (on recursion of all things) after the midterm. I was expecting some serious pain, since teaching after a midterm is hard enough but teaching recursion seemed like it would be a real battle. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t at all. They were incredibly engaged, joking around with each other and me. (I will note that the midterm was not easy by any stretch, so that doesn’t explain it). I finished the class by mentioning how much I love Halloween and promising them candy on demand in the post-pandemic world. This morning I got the following from one of the students in the night class, saying he thought I would like it:
He’s right of course: I love it! I shared it with the class on the course management system. And it gave me an incredibly happy feeling that at least one student really gets me and took the time to send me something that would make me smile.