Zero and Zero

Professors were asked to speak about their experience teaching this semester. 100% of people who spoke reported an extraordinary high rate of dropouts, extremely low engagement, apathy, and a sky-high of failures and incompletes.

My experience has been the exact opposite. For the first time in my whole career, I will have no Fs or unauthorized withdrawals (which is a grade we assign when a student stops showing up.) My teaching hasn’t changed. The workload in my courses hasn’t changed.

You know what is the difference between me and the people who reported all this? I’m teaching in person. I’ve had the best 3 semesters of my career since we came back from the COVID lockdown. Attendance, participation, and progress are sensational. I’m so energized by the student enthusiasm, I’m not even feeling the usual end of semester burnout. I was kind of stunned to hear everybody’s dropout numbers because mine are zero and zero.

11 thoughts on “Zero and Zero

        1. Yesterday for the first time I heard some timid suggestions that 2 years of online learning has had a negative effect on the students who have been subjected to it. So there’s some budding awareness. Not a moment too soon, of course.

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  1. I’ve taught in person the whole time, as well. The students were extremely grateful for the opportunity to show up to class and talk to live people. For most, all last year, mine was the only class they had in person. By the way, my student evaluations last year were stratospheric. I don’t think I did anything differently than how I always have; I think it was student engagement and gratitude, to be honest.
    This year we are fully back in person, so it feels rather normal, save for the masks.

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  2. I am a research rather than a teaching person. By the end of the term I’d normally be grumpy and exhausted. This year (my first term of teaching in-person after one year entirely online) I am just ecstatic. I could go on for 2 or 3 more weeks.
    I am the only person in my department to have been teaching all my classes in person this year. At the beginning of the term I was predicted a catastrophe by my colleagues. “But what if students have to self isolate! But what if there is an outbreak!”. Guess what: none of this has happened, and if it did I would just plough on. The departmental meeting in which this was said happened before term started in September 2021 – the first time we met in person since March 2020. I made the mistake of assuming this would signal the start of going back to normal. No such thing: someone asked “So, is anyone going to be around the department at all?”. “No, not really, my teaching is all online”. “No”. “I might pop up once a month or so to water the plants”. “See I’m now settled in my home office, my room here is just inferior”.
    I have also seen how the few teaching that is happening in person (except for my own) can be shifted to online at the slightest inconvenience, such as the expectation that the city will be busy on a particular day or that the class is happening too early in the morning (I kid you not).
    Sorry for coming to this blog to do therapy, I feel like I’m being dragged as we speak into some kind of sub-standard Phoenix University that I certainly didn’t sign up for. The worst thing is that this is not the university management itself (who would actually prefer for us to go back in person), it is all self-destruction by my department which, astonishingly, is in an eminently practical discipline.

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    1. Exactly!! It’s the same where I am. The administration is trying to force us to go back. They are ripping off the social distancing signs and mandating that all university-issued tech be returned to campus. Together with the faculty.

      It’s the faculty who are yes-butting everything to death. Yesterday we had a long discussion about what to do if students test positive and need to quarantine. They seem to imagine that these quarantines last for months when it’s 10 days from the first symptoms. Wich means a student only needs to miss a couple of class days at most. Ooooh, big disruption!

      I’ve been trying to calm people down. I’ve been teaching in person throughout, and it’s all good. Great attendance. Great participation. No outbreaks. In fact, not a zero case of transmission in the classroom has been uncovered by the contact tracing team. None. In 18 months of in-person teaching! Enough with the scare-mongering. Just come back and work, jeez.

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      1. When I first started teaching in person last fall, I was quite wary, I admit. But within weeks I relaxed. The whole last year we didn’t have a single case of in-class transmission (in my class or any other in-person class).

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      2. Yeah it was partly the alarm at hypothetical situations (what if a student has to self isolate?!) that made me feel as if I was being reckless, not properly understanding the implications of all of these things. I kept thinking – well worst case scenario I have to self isolate – that’s like 3 classes I have to do online? Isn’t it better to do 17 classes in person and 3 online rather than move all 20 online just in case? I was seriously concerned I was missing something.
        My colleagues are, in theory, all terrified – and now this has been renewed by omicron. I suspect in some cases it is genuine, in others it is just a pose to work from their holiday homes or get to do archival or field research in the middle of the semester. One of my colleagues wrote a rambling e-mail about “the ethics of visiting a campus to sell textbooks in the middle of a pandemic” (because a poor sales representative had the temerity of inquiring if he would be willing to arrange an in -person meeting), then was promptly off to spend the term in a developing country where I understand there are few covid restrictions.
        It is so demoralizing. I wish I had your positivity and I could focus on the good things – renewed love of teaching, actually quite a lot of success as a teacher.

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