Online Teaching at Its Best

So, how’s the online teaching going? I will tell you. In my 11th grade English class, we are starting with a unit on the American Dream. I get twenty-five minutes of live camera time every other day with them and I try to maximize that time. Today, I am introducing the unit with the concept of the American Dream and those in society who are often not included or thought of when we speak of the American Dream. As an introduction to the unit, we are reading a poem “Ellis Island” by Joseph Bruchac. It’s a good poem to start with. Since I would hazard a guess that 95% of the class did NOT have ancestors who arrived in America through Ellis Island a short introduction to the Island would be in order. I found a four-minute video by the History Channel-a nice introduction so we can unpack the poem.  Just as I am about to hit “play” Libby, my beagle, rises, goes to the door, and starts to whine in her loud, piercing beagle whine, punctuated with yips.

We love Libby dearly. We adopted her last year from the ASPCA and she came to us with a whole host of issues. But one thing Libby does well is she let’s us know when she has to go out and when Libby has to go out, she has to go out that second. I press “play” on the video and leap up to take Libby out. I have four minutes. I decide it would be best to tie her out—class is only twenty-five minutes, certainly, she can be outside for twenty-five minutes. The second Libby and I step out the front door, the heavens open and a deluge let’s loose. Here I am, beagle in tow, running for her tie out in an unbelievable heavy rain. I tie her out and race back inside. Two minutes left of the video. I run to the bathroom to check my hair. I’m soaked. I fluff my hair and run back to the computer. The video has one-minute and forty-five seconds left. Libby starts to howl. She has no desire to be left out in the rain. I jump up, race through the back door, grab Libby and haul her on the porch. Back to the bathroom to check hair. One-minute left of the video. I take a deep breath. Just a few seconds before the video ends, Corky, my Westie, decides it is a good time to start barking. Of course, he is standing next to the computer. I grab him, run to the back porch, and shut both dogs outside on the porch. I slide in my seat just at the video ends.  I am out of breath. My hair looks like I have been running in the rain. Just as we are about to read the poem, Libby starts her howling up again. She doesn’t want to be left on the porch. I apologize, excuse myself and let the dogs in. They run in the room and flop next to me on the couch.

The class reads the poem. I hit on some parts of it they might have difficulty within asynchronous time—and class is over. I do an “exit ticket” where I ask a question and each student must post the answer in the chat before they go. I am left with one student, his camera off, just a giant “J” on my screen.

“Jose?” I say to the air, “Do you have a question?”

There are a few moments of silence. It is not uncommon for students to sign on to class and then go do something else.

“Miss?”

“Yes?”

“Can I see your dog?”

I grab a sleeping Corky and put him up to the screen.

“What is his name?”

“Corky.”

“Can I see the other one?”

“She is too heavy to pick up. She’s a beagle but she is very fat.”

“My dog died this summer.”

“I’m so very sorry, Jose.”

“Have a good weekend, Miss.”

And he is gone before I can say anything else.

I’d say online teaching is going great. We are still focusing on what is important. 

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