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A Professor Professes

Confession is good for the soul.  I will also suggest, professing is good for the mind.  After 30 years in the healthcare business, I am slowly winding down my professional career.  Though I have limited education levels (BA  ((English Degree))from University of Toronto) I somehow acquired a teaching job at Sheridan College in the Pilon School of Business department. I enjoy tapping into the minds of the young adults, in both the Mississauga and the Brampton campus of the college.  

Students refer to me as Professor Ford, though as I professed in the previous paragraph, I do not have a PHD in any recognizable degree. Personally I believe I have acquired a not adjudicated PHD in weather predictions, based on looking up at the sky, but not a single educational institution, will accredit this superior academic ability.

I have really enjoyed wandering around a classroom, attempting to teach 20 year olds, who occasionally will look up from their phones and ask a question about the assignment due next week.  Well all was going well in my new chosen profession as a professor, until a nasty little virus slowly infiltrated the halls of learning across the country

Taking a responsible stance, the school declared all in class learning must cease, and applying a new software package on all teacher \ student platforms, launched “Virtual Classroom” for all to enjoy.

I do not enjoy.

Let me be a little clearer here, I hate online teaching. Now my parents taught me years ago not to use the word “hate” as it is not a good word to use in any circumstance. I believe the first time I used that word was when mother chose brussel sprouts as the evening’s vegetable to accompany her over-cooked casserole.   

I desperately searched my thesaurus for a more proper description of my feeling for this imposed teaching approach, but hate was truly the best word to use.  Now “despise” was close.  “Abhor”, “disdain” and “loathe” just sounded like a used a thesaurus to describe my emotion. “Abominate” was also a good word, but then after using the thesaurus, I then had to use the dictionary, to ensure this captured the true hate I needed to express.  Sorry mom, hate is the most accurate word.

With my new profession as a professor, allow my to profess my thoughts on mandatory online classes.

I appreciate sitting in front of a computer screen for three hours straight, might seem like a fantastic way to kill time, but believe me when you cannot click on Netflix, because the students will get the impression you are not focusing on them, this cold technology is not a substitute for tradition of the in class environment.

Now my default is to go on and on about my issues, but to demonstrate I might have a pinch of empathy for the students, let’s begin there.

There are pros and cons for the students participating in online learning.

Pros

  • Pajamas seems to be the new accepted business casual look
  • Playing video games while attending class demonstrates the important skill of multi-tasking.
  • Attendance is indicated by your name appearing on the left side of page.  You might be on a roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland, but as long as you log on, you are marked present.
  • Like the professor, they will blame any problem on the technology used during class.
  • The youth’s innate comfort with new technologies, can reverse teacher \ student role.

Cons

  • Students are poor, can’t afford reliable wifi
  • Frustration with teacher’s inability to navigate through simple technology
  • Loss of social interaction with classmates during lesson
  • Shy to ask questions in such a cold public form
  • Loss of engagement is replaced by constant awkward silence every class.

From the teacher’s perspective the challenges are clear.  I am struggling to keep over 30 students focused on the well structured three hour curriculum.  I am dealing with 20-year old adults.  I can’t even imagine if I was teaching a grade 3 class online. For many, their favourite class in grade school was recess.   Online teaching is like attempting to instill key educational fundamentals, like spelling, mathematics, phonics? geography, history while students are in perpetual recess.

Some parents have even begrudgingly gained new respect for the role of teachers in their children’s lives.

During a recent heated dinner conversation where I served my famous spaghetti and meatballs, the family diners began to disagree with my position on virtual education.  The arguments got more heated and went so long, I had to reheat the meal in the microwave.  The more the participants disagreed with my expressing current educational dysfunction, the less parmesan cheese I offered.  Eventually I put the bowl of freshly grated parmesan cheese up on a shelf so high, even the cats couldn’t add to their cat food.

Those now cheeseless debaters, introduced cheesy phrases like “the new normal” hoping that would settle everything.  The economics of eliminating bricks and mortar structures to diminish the cost of school boards budgets gained traction in the discussion. Online teaching could be a real estate boom for local boards of education, as selling the properties would increase the tax profits and maybe eliminate the debilitating chalk \ pen supply costs for local educators.

I hate online teaching, but also kind of hate when people disagree with me.  I am working on my flexibility, but with gyms currently closed because of Covid-19, my limberness in moving and communicating has suffered.

I have heard of many first year college students who have decided to postpone their education this year, and took on temporary employment until next year.  This delay was based on wanting the full social, weekend drinking and sense of independence,  that only a first year college experience can provide.

The future is undetermined of where schooling and hybrid education will land.  My concerns remain, as smarter people than me design the new normal, as they learn from our isolated Covid-19 trials of education.

In the 1970s there was a song, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right”.

To badly retitle that song,  “If online teaching is right, I will always be wrong.”

Cue the Blong: Oh the good old days of Face to Face conversations

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