Saturday, August 23, 2014

Trying to Get Back On a Saddle That Doesn't Fit

I am trying. I really am.

The new on-line class web platform is just a problem I have to solve. The new emphasis on capturing data and then drilling down into it is just another way of improving teaching. The younger, faster, brighter new hires are just colleagues I need to get to know. My new office is just a stack of boxes that needs unpacking. The new academia is just another iteration of my chosen profession.

But it all eludes me, and I am having trouble keeping up, getting into the groove, mastering the lingo, joining the team.

And they are a great team -- wonderfully open, bright, focused people.

But I feel like I am playing the game left-handed, blindfolded, hobbled. The old dog studies the new trick instructions while wearing reading glasses, but seeing the words isn't always understanding what they say.

Scene One: I am set to present to a group of new graduate student teachers. While "on deck" I notice that the person presenting before me is doing the exact same presentation that I have planned. Our handouts are identical, verbatim copies of each other.

It is my work that has been out floating around the teaching circles for a few years. The presenter just picked up the ideas and decided to go with them.

Scene Two: I have been asked to explain the new plagiarism procedures at the General Meeting, a gathering of all the Writing Program teachers. It's a pretty big audience.

So I write up a script for a role play dramatizing how to deal with a plagiarism case. I add a soundtrack for both comic and dramatic effect. I am poised to present.

Just as I am about to take the stage, I am told my skit is too long and that it has to be cancelled so PowerPoints can take the stage.

No problem.

Next, I get into a discussion about how much I will be using my course website for real-time chats, paper downloading, grading, streaming video, how much, in other words, I will switch the students' attention from face-to-face interaction in the real classroom to on-line screen gazing. 

I say I don't plan to use it much and watch as the eyes of the person I am talking to glaze over and look away. He has not looked me in the eye during our entire conversation. I don't feel much human contact.

The days of preparation and orientation pass slowly as the first day of classes approaches.

I feel out of sync.

I see the pull of the new teaching. I know that change is constant and inevitable. Change also implies casualties, the old ways sloughed off like dead skin. I don't know how teachable I am in these new times.

So I use pen and paper to plan my next sessions. I am not one with the multi modal classroom, don't have a vision for it, and fear that I will fall farther behind as the new world accelerates.

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