A Moment Away from the Class

auditorium benches chairs class

If you’ve never done it, and by it I mean teaching, you might not identify with all aspects of it.  You might understand the joy of getting through to that notoriously difficult or rather uninspired student.  It’s happened in enough movies and TV shows, accompanied by appropriate music to make the feeling pretty clear.  You might also understand the idea of the perfect lesson–think Venus Flytrap teaching Arnold about the Atom in that classic WKRP episode.  You might also understand the terror of a lesson gone horribly wrong.  Today’s Perfect Moment is something else.

Teaching online is a challenge, but we sometimes forget that learning online is also a challenge.  My students signed up for courses in Toronto and are now faced with being in Toronto (some unable to go home because there are no flights) with no social life and none of the attractions they came here specifically to experience.  It would be wrong of us not to acknowledge their frustrations.

Today, I had what I saw as a mini rebellion, but was most likely just paying customers expressing their frustration.  They didn’t do what I asked and as a result, the class got off to a clunky start.  Their griping started to rise and they started telling me how to teach the class.  They proposed some options which could save time…..if they actually listened to one another.  I did the exact same lesson a couple of hours earlier and got it all done in less time than they took, doing it their way.  I won’t be able to convince them of that, but I just wanted you to know.

Before you think that I am not writing about a Perfect Moment, I just want to assure you that I am.  This one is going to have to take a little digging.   Okay, it’s going to take a major excavation.  I should also note that it is raining out and the temperature has dropped from the low 30s to the high teens….and it is wonderful.  The sound of the rain is nice and even the lightning is inspiring.

Getting back to their rebellion of sorts.  While they were complaining, I turned off my microphone and turned off my video camera.  I thought about uttering a primal scream, but instead just took a couple of deep breaths and relaxed.  Knowing they couldn’t see or hear me was like a mini break from them.

When I taught face to face, every now and then I had to leave the class and go out into the hallway and be alone with my thoughts.  Sometimes it was to cool down and sometimes it was to send the message that I was displeased with the class.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.

Today, I enjoyed my moment of anonymity and freedom to roll my eyes and smirk and snarl without them looking.  They needed to complain and assert their ideas about how the class should be taught.  I needed to keep my cool and still let my body language express itself even if they weren’t going to see it.

Is this a Perfect Moment?  Actually, it was.

About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
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8 Responses to A Moment Away from the Class

  1. Although I have never taught online I certainly get needing to unplug/leave a classroom. Not easy when teaching preschoolers here or in China and extremely frowned upon in the high schools of China. The latter were private boarding schools, students had each other but not their families. I had not considered what students still in Toronto might be going through. In addition to the probable loneliness there is, even if buried deep, a fear of the unknown – like a movie, the virus is out there. Do you, as a teacher, deserve the challenge over your teaching method, heck, your authority? Probably not. (Darn, lost my train of thought) The challenge is the only push they may have right now.

    • Anthony says:

      The ones who have tried to make it work, seem to be doing well. They certainly have enough time to do their homework and do more listening practice (Netflix). Those that have given up….well, they’ve given up.

  2. retrodee says:

    I was a really sensitive student so when the teacher showed he or she was displeased with the class, I picked up on it right away. Many of the other students either didn’t notice or didn’t care. I’m a people pleaser by nature so I always wanted the teacher to be happy or at the very least, “okay” with us. However, I used to think that some teachers were just “jerks” and always in a bad mood… but now that I’m older, I realize how difficult and completely frustrating teaching must be at times! I bet it can be nice at times to not have to actually be in the classroom like it was for you today.

  3. gemmi72 says:

    I am assuming that your students are adults or at least post high school. Which would be interesting. On the one hand they have chosen to study at your school and so are more invested. On the other hand they also think / realise they can have input into how the classroom works. They also realise that there is nothing MAKING them do their homework. Sure they will blow their course fees but that is on them right?
    In any case I agree. Being able to switch yourself off for a break was one of the great things about online teaching. Although I am VERY glad we are back in the classroom.

    • Anthony says:

      My students are mostly adults. They are not always the ones footing the bill, however, and that is on their parents.
      I am all for student input, but I would prefer it to be proactive, rather than reactive. What I mean is, it is often too late for things to change today, but they can change for tomorrow or whenever the next class is scheduled.
      We have a tentative day to reopen face to face classes (with some physical distance measures in place –which also means temporal distancing of both staff and students.

  4. Jinjer says:

    I think teaching must be the hardest job in the world right after parenting, although I have never done either. I don’t know how you people do it.

    • Anthony says:

      It is a hard job, but I can’t kid myself. Frontline healthcare workers have the hardest job. Other emergency workers (including cops who are facing scrutiny, but still have it tough) have it much tougher than I do. I find my job draining, but others might find it invigorating. It often depends on how much support you get or don’t get.

      • Jinjer says:

        Good point about frontline healthcare workers and ER workers, and probably frontline military, too. But still!!! All-a-ya’ll are amazing!

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