Teachable Moments in Unusual Times – The Week Before

September 21, 2020 by Jennifer Campion

I spent HOURS getting ready this week. At least 20 hours. It wasn’t just honing the syllabus and setting up my CMS site like in normal times. I had to find out what changes happened in the Spring and Summer semesters since I haven’t taught since last Fall. What were all the new rules for online classes? I have also gone cross-eyed as I researched … and watched YouTube how-tos … and tested … and tested … and tested … SO many apps. How many free trials and free accounts have you set up in the past month!?

So many possible apps to try to do things I usually don’t think twice about–things that are standard to my classes–activities that are proven for content and are so much a part of my toolkit that they need little preparation. 

All my usual prep is flipped on its head. I’m like a brand new teacher again. I’m having to ask myself how to do assessments? How to do vowel discovery? How to have students figure out the Color of their names as a class activity without being able to “eavesdrop” on what everyone is doing? Thank goodness for friends willing to help me test things online.

I can’t figure out how to do the listening assessment.

I usually use the one in Targeting Pronunciation by Sue Miller. In a face-to-face class, you can just make copies. It’s interesting how in having to decide how to convert something to an online format, you then have to question the elemental aspects of the activity. Is this really necessary, i.e., worth all the hours that I’m putting into it? How important is it for me to control the audio so students only hear it once or twice at the most? Is there a better way to ask or explain these questions so they’re easier to understand without my being there to give directions? The number of variables is daunting. … Maybe I’ll just do assessments the second week–when I have a better sense of  the students’ comfort level with tech.

These are the times when I miss being part of a faculty. I’ve only taught one class (this same one, actually) before in this program. I’m “just” an adjunct–and a new one, to boot. I’m not really part of the team, and only three adjuncts are teaching this semester compared to the usual two dozen or so. It’s not clear who I can pester with questions about how this department has been accomplishing tasks like assessments since COVID hit six months ago. Plus this class is an outlier–a stand-alone course–that’s not part of the leveled courses that everyone else is teaching. … Maybe a few more hours pouring over the distance learning groups on Facebook will help? 


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