Dear Diary, Part 3: Zoom Teaching: Still Hit AND Miss

close-up of typewriter with "dear diary: part 3" typed out on paper
Online Learning
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Janet Mizrahi is a continuing lecturer of professional writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is also an author at BizCommBuzz.


Oh. My. God. I am SO sick of grading online! Granted, grading for writing classes has never been my favorite aspect of teaching, but online grading surely is a new level in Dante’s circles of hell. My back is aching. My eyes can’t focus. I need to get up every ten minutes to stretch, but just as my body has relaxed, I drag myself back to my chair for more.

And another thing. Whoever dreamed up Zoom should be sentenced to grading undergraduate writing assignments for eternity. I have likewise reserved a special torture to the creators of my LMS for its unfriendly user interface. If I taught another 20 years I don’t think I’d master all its functions.

So, dear diary, you can see I’m still not loving teaching remotely. However, a few lights are shimmering amid the black miasma that is distance learning.

I am proud to say I can now not only successfully send students to Zoom breakout rooms, but I’ve learned to actually enter and leave said rooms (unlike a beloved colleague, who may still be stuck in breakout room purgatory as I write this). While this took eight back-and-forth help tickets to IT—including an epic screen share session—those six hours I’ll never get back were almost worth it. I think I felt a teeny bit… the smallest inkling… as if I were in a real class session in a real classroom with students sitting in real chairs and me in real life walking around to check their work, chat with them….

But I digress. I should mention that this ray of light came only after being away from teaching for four months to recover from the fear and loathing of last spring’s sudden and tumultuous tumble into online teaching (see Dear Diary Part 1 and Part 2). But that time off gave me the respite I needed to wrap my head around the reality that my last year as a college instructor—I retire in June—would take place in my home office. Even if the vaccine is available by March, I don’t trust students to follow COVID-prevention best practices. So, I will retire without returning to my campus, my students, and my colleagues. It is a harsh blow.

But I’m trying to look on the bright side. Teaching from home means I have more time to work on losing the weight I put on at the beginning of the pandemic and only wear enough make-up so I don’t look too hideous on Zoom video (okay, Zoom developers, I’ll give it to you, nice job on that “touch up my appearance” feature). And I’ll soon have a new grandson to shower with bon mots instead of hapless undergrads! Something to look forward to.

In the meantime, I will try to detest grading papers on my computer a little less, even though it takes twice as long. I will try to not miss the smell of the ocean as I walk to class on my beautiful campus, or long for the spontaneous chats my beloved colleagues and I would be having in the halls of our office building.

I will get through this, as we all are. But I won’t like it.


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