Category Archives: Soapbox

Teaching Online Blows

I’ve been teaching college courses online for about ten years now. I started back when there was no Zoom-like interactions, just course modules, dropboxes, and discussion boards. The closest you got to live interaction was email, and the selling point was you could attend college in your pajamas, and at any hour of the day or night. But that was a choice you consciously made, because it was mostly made out of convenience. Not so now.

This semester, I’m teaching what’s known as synchronous  classes, live classes with students as mostly avatars, staring back at my computer screen. Since so many classes are being taught online at once, each class can only handle four student cameras at a time. Mostly, staring at those avatars, I feel like I’m talking to myself, and there’s no way of knowing how many students are paying attention to me at once. I try to be engaging, asking for responses, and we do have live class discussions over the readings, short stories, poetry and such, led by student Discussion Leaders, but it’s a poor, poor substitute. By the quality of their assignments, and the constant barrage of emails, and requests for office visits (also virtual), I know that for many students, I’m not getting through.

Why? Because teaching online is NO substitute for classroom interaction. Students, whether in preschool or college, need face-to-face interaction, and the give-and-take that only a live instructor can give to disseminate information. Yes, if you’re highly motivated, online learning is a wonderful alternative. But there’s more to any educational institution than just coursework, and I can go on for hours just what those things are. But in order to get students back into the classroom, which is what everyone wants, we need to get instructors — ALL instructors — vaccinated. There’s an old story, that if a plane is going down,  and a mother, with a baby, has access to only one oxygen mask, who gets it, the mother or the baby. The first instinct of the mother would be to put the mask on the baby. But who will care for the baby if the baby dies? So the logical answer is  to save the mother, as the baby can’t fend for itself.

The same for the instructors as believe me, no one wants to be back on campus more than we do. Children are the least likely to fall ill if they catch the virus, and college students, if they do, we most likely shrug it off. Not so with the instructors who are more often than not older and more vulnerable. If we value our children’s education as much as we say we do, then please give equal value to the people who spend their lives teaching them who are now at risk. Vaccinate all educators now.

Impeachment 2.0

Photo The New York Times

Last week I posted a photo of the melee going on at the Capitol during what needs to be called an Insurrection. I have no other name for it, as “protesters” don’t smash windows, beat cops, and otherwise trash a hallowed temple of our democracy. Seeing that the War of 1812 ended over 200 years ago, I couldn’t see any other reason why they’d be there. So today, Speaker Pelosi was forced again to deal with the Insurrectionist-in-Chief the only way she could, by once again impeaching him. For those who disagree, you’re welcome to your point of view. That’s what First Amendment rights are all about. What they don’t concern is yelling louder than anyone else so you can punctuate your point with violence. We are free to disagree. We are not free to endanger the rights, the lives, the liberty, and the Constitution of this country. You live here, you have to play by the rules. If you disagree, there are legal avenues you are free to explore. But your right to disagree with me ends at the point of your fist.  Because we are a republic, and we’re civilized. Right? Right?

Why Biden?

I will be the first one to tell you that Joe Biden, Jr. was not my first choice for president. In fact, he was probably my last choice. But let me get one thing straight: it was never because I didn’t think him either competent or ready for the job. He spent decades in the Senate and eight years as Vice-President, so he knows more than most what’s expected of him and he’s ready to hit the ground running. So when James Clyburn of South Carolina endorsed him, setting him on a winning streak that proved to be unstoppable, I can’t say I was disappointed. And when he picked Kamala Harris as his running mate–who was my first choice–that sealed the deal for me. So when I got my mail-in ballot from the Great State of New Jersey, (Jersey Girls don’t do lines because they don’t have to), I confidently dropped it in the ballot box with no reservations. So why not? Why Joe, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Four years ago I laid out my reasons for electing Hillary Clinton. I don’t think I have to mention how that went. There were a lot of reasons why Clinton lost, a couple of progressive third-party candidates, ignoring Midwestern and battleground states, and the plain fact that people were so over the Clintons. Then there was the reality that a lot of people simply didn’t vote, turned off by the nasty state of politics and an apathy for it altogether. People were saying both candidates were awful and how could my one vote make a difference? And here’s the best reason: whatever they do in Washington D.C. can hardly affect me. Thank about that for a few seconds: whatever they do in Washington D.C. can hardly affect me.

Seriously? Ever hear of a little ol’ thing called the COVID-19 pandemic? So how many people are you having over for Thanksgiving? When’s the last time you went to a concert? See your grandma lately? How about that last frat party? Let’s all try that new restaurant! Want to go out for a drink? Don’t worry, it’ll all go away in the spring. No–not next spring. Last spring. Except it didn’t. And there’s no one else to blame expect for Donald Trump. But this isn’t a column against him. I’m from Jersey, and we know who Trump is. And I’m not going to waste keystrokes on this cult of personality. He isn’t worth aggravating my carpel tunnel. So I’ll move on.

I voted for Joe Biden because I want competence in the government again. I want an adult who believe in science and progressive thinking and will honor differences of opinion, and is willing to compromise for a consensus. I want to believe in what my elected officials say, and when they do speak, they’ll speak truthfully and without recrimination, and they’ll respect the expertise of career public service professionals. I want my president to remember he’s a caretaker of not only the public trust, but to remember he’s the president of all Americans, blue state and red, and that he’ll rely on science and not on whatever’s rolling out of the rumor mill. I want Joe Biden as president because maybe we won’t be the laughingstock of the world anymore, and he’ll respect the expertise of our career diplomats and military. He’ll remember the White House is hotel and not his private country club, and that when family come over it’s for lunch in the private residence, and not for work in an office off the Oval. I want Joe Biden as president because I trust him to hire the best people for the job, not off a TV show he watched that morning, and when he fires someone I don’t learn about it in a tweet.

Oh man…I could go on and on, but like I said, the carpel…. I guess most of all why I want Joe Biden for president is I’m exhausted, and through boredom borne of this pandemic, what I’m craving now is normalcy. Donald–you’re just not funny anymore. You’ve worn me out–you’ve worn us all out. We want a leader, not an entertainer, because most definitely, we are not amused.

Biden Harris 2020.

Vote like your Rights Depend on it

Am I sounding like an alarmist? Maybe. But as I said many times before, if you don’t vote, you have no right to bitch. Here in New Jersey voting is already underway, and I dropped by ballot in the voting box supplied by my county, at the county library, last Sunday. All voting in NJ is by mail, though you can still vote in person if you want at the polls. Since all registered voters got ballots in the mail, voting in person is provisional, as it’ll be check against the paper ballots. Am I worried? No. This is not new technology. Voting by mail has been done for absentee voting and by people in the military for decades. See, it’s not voter fraud that bother me. It’s what can happen if people don’t vote at all. Don’t say you’re not part of the system. If you’re living in the U.S., if you’re paying taxes, your are. Make your voice heard. VOTE!

Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

I love it when the back-to-school planning committees are held on Zoom. If it’s so safe, then why not meet in the usual meeting rooms with ass-to-ass seating, bad ventilation, and everybody spitting out their usual contention? Yes, children have a lower frequency of falling ill from the virus, but as usual, the some people seem to think that schools (and Higher Ed), run on autopilot. Education is not only about learning–it’s about teaching too. And believe it or not, teachers are real people who can catch viruses. And file lawsuits, too. I’m happy I work for an institution that believes in science, has pushed the Fall semester to remote, and values the health of all its employees and students. That’s pure Jersey.