I am not, by nature, a yeller. Raising my voice does not make me feel empowered or more present; I do not get emotional relief from screaming or throwing things or pitching fits.
If I did, though, I’d be having a doozy right about now.
We’re essentially halfway through our semester – we’re in week 5 of 11, with week 7 being the Presidents’ Day holiday (and weeks 2 and 3 being a snow day and the MLK holiday, respectively) and I’m seriously stressing for my poor hybrid composition kids… and for me.
They’re foundering – big time – and there’s almost nothing I can do about it. We only meet for two hours once a week, and I have neither the tools nor the expertise nor the training or support to have any kind of meaningful contact with them online. Rather than being able to teach them about the joys and frustrations and successes and hardships of writing, I’m reduced to assigning them chapters to read and exercises to complete on their own in the text book, along with a few writing prompts to work in their notebooks. This is not teaching, it’s managing, and I hate it with every fibre of my professional being.
My students are stressing out; I can actually feel it vibrating off of them. Though a good portion of that is of their own making, I can’t help but empathize with them. Yes, a good number of them aren’t bothering to do their homework (they complained in class today that they don’t “get” the homework, but only two so far have emailed me to ask for clarification). Though I’ve offered office hours on both Wednesday mornings and Thursday evenings, only four of my 27 students have taken me up on it, and no one has asked if I can meet them at different times. I collected their notebooks today, and a quick flipping-through shows me that most barely bothered to address the prompts I offered them.
What I’m saying with all this is that I understand that I am not solely responsible for their success or failure in my class, that most of the effort has to come from them. Still, given the format of the class, I don’t feel like I’m able to adequately fill my responsibilities to them as their teacher. I come home on Monday afternoons with a raging stress headache and an almost overwhelming feeling of ferocious professional frustration.
These kids deserve better than I can give them under these circumstances. They deserve my time and my individual attention. They deserve each other’s time and attention in discussions and critique workshops. They should be able to ask questions, take notes, challenge assumptions (mine, theirs, and each others) and they should not feel rushed or pressured. They’re being cheated by this hybrid format, and I’m angry – for them and for me. They’re not learning and I’m not teaching. The only one who wins here is the college: they get their money regardless.