Sweet Notes

Aw. The students have started handing in their final projects, and some of them are accompanied with very sweet notes:

“Thank you so much for a great semester. I’m sure transitioning online was not an easy task, but you handled it remarkably well. I appreciate how understanding you were of all of our schedules. Have a great summer!”

Nice to be appreciated. 

Such a Hard Year

Just got my formal reappointment letter for next year — as NTT faculty, it wasn’t guaranteed, so I’m glad that I still have a job.

So much sympathy to those faculty who haven’t been reappointed; our union has been putting a lot of pressure on administration to reappoint NTT faculty, but I know many higher ed faculty have no one to even advocate for them.

Such a hard year. 

Online Instruction in the Fall

I want to note, for students and parents everywhere, that what you’re seeing of hastily-converted-to-online teaching now is NOTHING like what online instruction would look like in the fall semester.

If teachers have a summer to plan (would be nice to be compensated for that extra work, but anyway), and can thoughtfully structure our classes from the beginning for online instruction; if we have students who are expecting that, have access to appropriate tech, and understand the time commitments involved, then online instruction can be fully as rich and educational and satisfying and even fun as in-person, I truly believe. For some students, it will be even better than in-person, I promise you.

Some instructors will be better at it than others, but if you’ve ever slept through a droning lecture, you’ll know that’s true of in-person teaching as well!

(Editing to add important caveat: I can’t really speak to classes that require physical equipment. I teach English lit. and creative writing.)

Last Week of Classes

Last week of classes. Not gonna lie — can’t wait for this semester to be over. I miss my students’ bright faces and interesting conversations, but switching to a poor simulacrum of online teaching mid-stream has been a tremendous strain all around, especially when my own executive functioning skills are pandemic-impaired.

But on the plus side, I’m about to go into a week of my post-colonial lit. students doing personal history presentations, which is going to be a great way to wrap up the semester. Some of them are talking about coronavirus, others about immigration, wars, etc., Looking forward to seeing what connections they make between their lives and larger historical events.

And quite a few of my students in both classes have chosen to do a mutual aid project instead of a final paper, and it’s just tremendously sweet, hearing how they’ve been reaching out to support their communities. I’m planning to ask permission to put together an anonymized list of what they’ve done, to share with you all.

Powerpoint Question

I feel like this is a dense question, but let me just ask — if you wanted to share a PowerPoint with your class electronically, how would you do that? Is there a way to upload it to Blackboard? Should I have students attach the PP file to an e-mail to the class? Is there something I’m not thinking of?

EDITING TO NOTE: This isn’t meant to be synchronous, which I should have said, so I’m going to have them save as PDF and then mail that to the class, thanks.

Mutual Aid Final Project

(shared in case it’s of interest to teachers)

Mutual Aid Final Project

This option would take the place of the final paper. The first step is for the entire class; steps 2 and 3 are if you want to do this instead of writing a final paper for the course.


Week 1 (April 13 – 19 — due Sunday night 4/19 by midnight): (for entire class, even if you’re planning to write a final paper)

• Go online and google at least 3 mutual aid coronavirus efforts that have popped up; write at least 1/2 page of notes on each one (bullet points are fine, ditto paragraphs), and share with the class in the mutual aid document in Blackboard Collaboration space — be sure to link back to the various projects’ websites, spreadsheets, etc.

Week 2 (April 20 – 26 — due Sunday night 4/26 by midnight): (for those selecting the mutual aid option for final project)

• Actually contribute materially to a mutual aid project, either one that you or a classmate has found, or one you create yourself; aim for at least 3 hours of work. This can be computer-based work (collating information, writing it up, making teaching podcasts or videos) or more physical (sewing masks, dropping off food to quarantined individuals, volunteering in healthcare, etc.) If choosing this option, by Sunday night at midnight 4/26, send me a quick note via e-mail letting me know what you’ve done for the material contribution component.

Week 3 (April 27 – May 4 — due Monday of finals week 5/4, midnight)

• Write a 2-3 page report on the project, including a thesis argument centered on the utility of mutual aid during times of societal change and governmental crisis. Some questions you might consider: What did you end up doing? How useful do you think it was? How could you do it better? What would have made your task easier? Are there ways you could enlist more people in helping? Are efforts to help marginalized communities incorporating feedback and perspectives from people within those communities (‘nothing about us without us’)?

Zoom Meeting Malfunctions

Can I hold a Zoom class when my computer suddenly starts freaking out and sending me Zoom error messages every five minutes and I can’t hear my students’ questions? It turns out that yes, I can, they can type in the chat window and it works, but it is tiring and less fun.

On the plus side, I think I did a decent job of connecting Things Fall Apart and The Lion and the Jewel to our earlier readings, our later readings, and even to coronavirus’s effects on our society — both in how we construct mutual aid efforts to supplement or replace failed governments, and how we have to start to think about what kind of society we want to build on the other side of all this.

(Decoupling healthcare from jobs in America, for example, because it’s super-clear how that’s failing us. Forgiving all student loans (which would be a massive boost to the economy. Etc.)

Some of my students are bored with time on their hands, so I told them they ought to read The Bone People (which is optional for this 100-level class). Let’s raise up a new generation of society-builders, shall we?

(The Bone People is one of my 10 favorite books in the world and you should read it. Content note: graphic child abuse.)