This year is trying to kill my interest in teaching. My work load has basically doubled, since I’m splitting up all my labs into multiple sub-sections to meet the isolation guidelines, and I’m also struggling to provide accommodations to all the students in difficult circumstances (which I need to do, and is part of the job), and my reward is that a) teaching involves trying to engage mute little black squares on a computer screen, and b) the administration occasionally mumbles about trying to find a way to cut my pay, while telling me gosh, what a wonderful job I’m doing. And then telling me we should prepare to continue the pandemic protocols next fall, and that we don’t have any access to a vaccine, and aren’t even remotely in the queue. Right now I’m staring into a growing bleak darkness that is my future. I don’t even have the joy of spidering right now — it’s -35 degrees C out there!
If my first year as a full time teaching professor (1990, but who is counting) had been like this, I’d be working in a software company right now, coding. I coulda been, but I liked students…you know, those entities who are now little black squares on a screen.
At least I can still scream into the glowing pixels of the void before me.
You need to teach your students to use cat filters.
PZ Myers says
I have to teach one of those classes of black squares in 45 minutes, and now I discover that the site hosting the article on COVID-19 evolution is down. Oh yeah, trying to get an active discussion going on an article none of them have been able to read is going to be SO MUCH FUN.
Kill me now.
Kill me now — Careful, you have a homicide-inclined evil cat…
If you scream into the glowing pixels of the void, the glowing pixels of the void scream back at you.
Didn’t you save a local copy?
Can’t you share your screen?
For that matter, can’t you use some sort of file share? Lots of stuff can be thrown onto Google Drive, frex.
PZ Myers says
Yes. I had a local copy, which I’ve hastily thrown on the class page. Alas, none of the students mentioned this problem today, so they probably haven’t tried to read it yet.
@6, Or they downloaded their own copies before the site went down. That is what I tend to do, partly because of the potential for problems such as the site being down, and also so I can use local (and typically specialist) tools to search, print, excerpt, etc., the locally-resident file / paper.
I completely understand. I teach to 5 college classes of little black boxes. I can’t tell if they understand the subject matter and it is killing me that I cannot be in lab with them because that is where I get to know them. I miss students coming to my office to talk with me about class and their aspirations for their futures. I miss the nods in the hall and the waves of past students. I am so burned out from trying to grade papers on our LMS, recording videos, answering countless emails. My neck, shoulder, and wrist are constantly sore.
Worst of all…I am saddest at this job I have ever been because my students are suffering from not only the difficulty of learning remotely but also depression and various other issues that this pandemic has created. I am hanging on by a thread but I just keep telling myself over and over that someday I will be able to be back in the classroom and that this is the way I am giving back to my community by being there to make the best of a not great situation for those that will someday perhaps be there for me.
But I totally feel what you are going through.
bcw bcw says
Do we need to start an “it gets better” website for teachers and professors? If gay kids can be encouraged to make it through a couple of years of high school, teachers can be helped to hang on through another season of COVID.
I would suggest testimonials from places like Australia and Korea that have reopened but that would just be depressing. Maybe just reminders that of Biden is President.
I/we keep pointing out that now is not the time to come down with Covid-19 virus.
The vaccines are being given out every day.
I keep telling myself and others that if we can stay alive for two more months, we’ve made it to the finish line.
Death is a permanent solution to a temporary problem here.
Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says
Hello from Australia.
We’re still doing a lot of remote teaching. Lectures all have to be pre-recorded, and to save money they’ve cut the amount of time that can be spent marking per student per semester by a third. Even though it won’t save them money if the person with tenure does the marking because we aren’t paid on that basis. And to save even more money casual teaching is slashed. Classes for us start in just over a week. I don’t even get black squares because we’re using Collaborate instead of zoom, I get chat areas with no engagement instead.
I’m glad you enjoyed your first years of teaching. I don’t need the competition… ;)
This poor guy (math professor no less) lived my recurring nightmare about lecturing online.
“I don’t even get black squares because we’re using Collaborate instead of zoom,”
Yeah, we have to use it too. The only two OK things about it: it functions on a consistent basis, unlike its performance just a couple years ago, and I can record the sessions. I get to direct no shows to the recordings when they say “I don’t understand the Central Limit Theorem” or whatever the topic was. Even better — that’s the advice our admin gives us to do “If they weren’t in class tell them to watch the lecture’s recording before coming with questions. That’s their responsibility.”
I only teach 10-18 year olds at the moment, but I get the much of the same frustration. I’m fortunate in that Latin, Greek and Ancient History are pretty easy to resource online, and I can always set them a translation piece to practice on if all else fails. The biggest problem I’ve had is sheer burnout – after seven hours of Microsoft Teams in a day both I and they are pretty drained. All creativity, enthusiasm and verve have been ground out of us right now.
Today I had to do an enrichment session for the sixth-form, where we discussed a 15 minute talk on how various civil rights movements have learned from others to achieve their aims more quickly – the example being the US Black civil rights movement and how the LGBT rights movement learned from it and even drew some of its founding members from it. Normally this would have provoked a very interesting discussion for the rest of the hour, but it was like getting blood from a stone today. After six weeks of this regime since Christmas nobody has the mental resources to think properly, nor the lightness of spirit to engage well.
And then I finish for the day and have to spend the evening looking after the mental wellbeing of my friends, who are suffering worse than I am in the personal sphere – redundancies, passing of pets, general anxiety. Oh well, at least Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I can enjoy the brief, excruciating satisfaction of knowing that my beloved will appreciate the ten pink roses for a moment, but still won’t feel any sort of reciprocal love for me in return. Ain’t life grand?
I’m not in a situation where I have to interact with student filled boxes.
Why not start each class with a collective primal screen? It might end with a bit of laughter. Everyone is peering into the abyss: why not give it the finger?
With all of that… consider yourself lucky.
My little podunk school has decided that it is legal to revoke tenure (to full professors) and replace them with adjuncts, providing that they have first pushed a minor program reduction through.
They have been in the excruciatingly slow process of firing me for the last 9 months and still aren’t done. And good luck finding an academic job in a small school at that stage of career. (Even if you were willing to go through tenure review again.)
So, the black boxes are actually the high point of my day.
PZ Myers says
#16: Yeah, if that happened to me, I’m close enough to retirement that I’d just tell them to give me a decent exit package and I’ll go quietly.
consciousness razor says
It’s been hard on music programs too.
Administrator: “What’s all this about rehearsals and performances? This one isn’t a lecture course, you say? But with masks…. Oh. Right. And even in the best of times, your budget is tiny? And trying to do it online is a big problem anyway because of the lag? Uhhh……… okay. Thanks for the update. Moving on.”
I suppose it’s sort of better than “we’re shutting down the whole department, so we can keep the lights on in the science building. We’ll call you if we need you.” I guess that is what some have done, while others are still struggling to hold it together.
@ nomaduk, # 4: In Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream.
I lack the agency to adress these conditions and can only offer heartfelt condolences (Swedish education also has major issues especially during the pandemic).
My personal advice is to investigate the efficacy of Prozac before you crash into full-fledged burnout (I have been there, and it takes years to get out) and to check out the dark humor of Stephen Colbert and the other TV hosts. They can make very bad news funny.
A final cure to despair: “God Awful Movies” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.
All of you on the teaching end of things have my profound sympathy.
Speaking as someone who has been poking around with computers since 1964, some of the issues mentioned are why I don’t do anything in the “cloud” that can be avoided.
Ray, rude-ass yankee - One inseparable gemisch says
Scream away, I’ll be listening and commiserating. I really hope this gets better soon and doesn’t drag on and on.
Sad times. It sounds like although you are obviously a wonderful teacher and communicator, you might be looking forward to retirement now.
I read “glowing pixies of the void.” I think there’s a story there.