I had my first COVID-teaching nightmare this week. I have never been one to have dreams about being naked in front of a crowd — I have been teaching college for 20 years, so being in front of a room full of students doesn’t bother me. It turns out, however, that Zooming a bunch of students kind of does.
Pre-COVID, chances are slim I would forget to leave my office at Eugene Weekly and drive to campus, but in this new era, I dreamt I simply forgot to Zoom my class.
I have been teaching my Lane Community College journalism and writing courses remotely since the stay-at-home directive started in March. It was weird at first to record lectures and activities and post them, but I still managed to virtually get to know my students and interact, and the technology was OK.
But this term, like so many others, I am teaching a hybrid course where we meet for one class via Zoom and the rest I post lectures and activities to the ineptly named “Moodle” teaching site. This means I have to have my Zoom up and working at a set time. That’s one challenge. And unlike recording, I can’t pause and restart if I say something awkward. I’m like a 2020 reboot of Candid Camera, except the joke’s on me.
And furthermore, because my students are on mute, if I do say something awkward, then there’s a creepy silence while my words linger in the void — only to be duly transcribed later by the Zoom software for my students to read.
The term has only just started and already I have had my dogs bark and loudly fart, random text messages flash across my screen and repeatedly treated my students to the sight of my hand in front of the camera again and again as I try to adjust my iPad so they can see my face and not just up my nostrils. And that’s on top of the awkward silences.
A friend teaching at Umpqua Community College turned her video off during a class break but forgot to turn off the microphone, letting her students hear her huge sneeze, and another had her husband walk across the room behind her, shirtless, causing an outburst of giggles. It makes me wonder what other strange things students might hear if I forget to turn off a mic or log off. I Zoom from my office at EW, so luckily things can’t get too strange in the background (famous last words when you work at the Weekly).
COVID-19 or not, some things don’t change: Tech issues arise whether I am in front of a class or a camera, students are still sometimes frustrating and always fulfilling, even mediated by a computer screen. At least now if they fall asleep, I won’t know unless they snore into the mic.
And I still managed to be late to class.