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Pressing Matters. . .

 

Nothing quite like the aroma of freshly ironed cotton!

 

Well, the course pages are all set and go live for students as of midnight tonight!  I have spent the final day of the 18-month long summer vacation at home alone seeing to a few final things, answering some email, running the Miele around three floors of the house, and preparing for my first day on campus since mid-March 2020.  It has been a joy!  

I've already chosen a linen suit, pressed a light blue cotton shirt with spread collar, laid out an Italian silk tie, leather dress shoes, socks, etc., and fired up the iron a second time to press a number of handkerchiefs and a few light blue oxford cloth cotton masks from Kamakura.  I cannot tell you how eager I am to get back to a somewhat more normal existence Monday through Friday albeit still from a distance.  

While my university has about 60% of its fall courses face to face again, many of us are nevertheless still teaching hybrid or fully online.  Once again, I have gone the asynchronous online route for a number of reasons.  

One, it opens up a lot more time to partake in the intellectual life of the university as far as guest speakers, faculty and college meetings, committees, and professional development opportunities are concerned.  

Two, parking is abysmal here, and trying to navigate traffic to get from one building across campus to another AND find a new parking space once there is truly a nightmare between the hours of 10am-4pm.  

Three, the room gods rarely have smiled on me in the past.  And while I have had some terrific spaces  in some new(er) buildings around campus once in a while, most of the time I have been stuck with my 35-50+ students in old buildings with inadequate climate control and rooms that are always too warm regardless of the season.  Fill those with writhing undergraduate bodies, some of whom are still challenged by the simple ideas of showering and wearing deodorant, and it makes for a sweaty, putrid, and less than pleasant experience.

Fourth, there is the matter of simple politeness.  I'll spear you most of the details, you can use your imaginations here, but an apparent unwillingness to silence and put away cellphones and NOT use class time as a lunch period seem to be beyond much of Generation Z. 

It's not all young people who seem unwilling to control basic impulses, mind you, but enough.  Basic consideration and civility, to say nothing of bodily control, no longer seem to be part of many people's genetic code.

Similarly, asking people to wait until later to feed their faces has become a futile exercise in an era when, it seems, the majority of students serve you with university paperwork at the start of each semester, specifying that they be able to have food during class due to blood sugar levels, or some other issue.  ADHD, ASD, PTSD, visual, or hearing impairment that require accommodations are one thing.  Not a problem.  Happy to assist in the journey toward student success.  But people noisily inhaling large salads made up of vegetables and greens smothered in cream dressing that, invariably, runs down their face onto the tabletop during class?

I have been confronted with the scene I describe again and again in recent years.  This was not an issue when I began teaching in the mid-90s as a grad student.

We're talking about minimizing distractions that might interfere with others' learning, the instructor's ability to deliver material and related information to students, engaging the class in a way that fosters learning, as well as ensuring that the classroom is a comfortable environment for everyone.  You would be forgiven for thinking that has become too much to ask.  

Clearly, behaving as though raised in a barn has become permissible.  De rigueur even.  Much like ignorance, people seem almost proud of coarse behavior in 2021.  It is no longer restricted to cabins of nine-year old boys attempting to gross out each other while at summer camp. 

Returning to the point at hand, there is also the little matter of our old friend Covid-19 and the Delta variant, or whatever others might arise.  Our university has vaccination and mask mandates in place -- the current president is an M.D. -- but lots of newly returned students and, oddly, support staff are already exhibiting very foolish behavior with regard to basic precautions put in place to keep everyone safer.  

Sure, if others want to play Russian Roulette with a highly transmissible illness that has killed approximately 655,000 people in the United States alone up to this point (according to Worldometers.info this morning), fine.  But the problem comes in the danger that myopic, self-centered people pose to others simply through contentious belligerence.  

Oh, right.  The government, media, and medical community among others are lying to us.  This is all a made-up fantasy.   After all, it's our constitutional right to put others in harm's way.  Puh-leeze.  

Come on people.  It's a matter of public health.

In any case, I'm done with face-to-face classes for the foreseeable future.  People can yack all they want about the face-to-face college experience for students being somehow superior to other modalities, but asynchronous online it is for yours truly.  And that will probably remain the case unless I am lucky enough to get a small honors section at some point.

For all of that, I cannot wait to get back to campus and to a new office on a different floor.  For me, working from home ain't all it is cracked up to be.  I had enough of that by May 2020, and that was before the 2020-2021 school year here at home with The Young Master.  An incredible challenge most days.  I do not need another hole in the head after that.

Still, onward and upward, eh?  Let's hope these vaccines work like we are told they will, and that the six-month booster shots become available to the general public soon.  Probably like a lot of (?) other people out there, I am not cut out to work from home all of the time.  

Spare me.  I enjoy wearing nice clothes, dress shoes, my briefcases, and the daily change of scenery from home to work and home again too much.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

 

And the finished product.  I've really enjoyed these lined oxford cloth masks and keep meaning to order  a few more.  Maybe in a university stripe?

 

Comments

  1. Heinz-Ulrich, I graduated last spring at 31 and, for me at least, the online experience was a poor substitute indeed for in person lectures. I find that I can recall almost everything that is said by the lecturer when I am in the class room, but move it online and I really struggle. I will have to adapt as several of the larger lectures for my graduate program will be online this semester.

    However I am with you on the food thing. I always managed to get a granola bar or a banana in in between classes. I will even admit to sneaking a handful of nuts mid lecture on particularly draining days. But to sit in class eating a cheese burger and fries reveals a staggering lack of dignity that I almost cannot fathom. It is totally disrespectful, not only to the professor but also to other students.

    Of course, that total lack of dignity and respect is also reflected in the way the students dress, and very likely in the way their parents dress as well. But now I am bumming myself out. Here is to a successful semester!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Online learning versus face-to face each have their strengths and weaknesses, true. To be honest, there are things I cannot do in an asynchronous online setting that I miss and which are really effective for engaging students and fostering their learning. On the other hand, the asynchronous online modality offers considerable flexibility for students too. I would argue though that the latter also takes considerable time to develop and set up properly to foster learning in the same way. I used to suffer from the misconception that online learning was took less time and was easier from the teacher's or professor's point of view. I learned, after two online seminars last summer, and roconfiguring my own courses for online delivery, that there is one heck of a lot more to think about than anticipated. Who knew?

    Best Regards,

    H-U

    ReplyDelete

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All opinions are welcome here. Even those that differ from mine. But let's keep it clean and civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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