“Kim. I’ve submitted your name to the Dean for Distance Learning.”
Strains of “Hallelujah Chorus” streamed from the ceiling and swelled in the hallways. Sexual harassment be damned, I hauled off and hugged my Department Chair.
“Thank you! When do I start?”
I’ve waited for this opportunity since a friend started teaching online.
“How do you get on?” I asked her, one day.
“Simple. Just put in your name for it. When there’s a spot, someone will call you.”
Imagining myself learning the trade at my own pace, setting my own virtual office hours, and teaching computer-savvy students, I wasted no time in tossing my name into the hat.
After a five-year lapse, the opportunity presented itself with a shiny, red bow. My colleagues rejoiced.
“You’ll never have to worry about not having a class.”
“Even when you’re in a retirement home, you can teach class from your laptop.”
Now, as I sit in the sparsely-populated Distance Learning Orientation, search for the “Any” key, and read and re-read instructions intended for the Geek Squad, I can identify with my students’ frustration with my well-intentioned instructions for “simply” logging on to the school site or www.turnitin.com.
“What’s the matter?” I felt like asking them, in the past. “You have photos, diagrams…cave-man drawings…right in front of you, so why can’t you upload your papers by the deadline?”
Now, here I am in their seats. Now, I understand.
Once, I saw a movie about a doctor who became more empathetic with his patients after becoming a patient, himself. Wearing the same gaping hospital gowns. Being roused from a sound sleep for tests in the middle of the night. Choking down hospital food he wouldn’t feed his dog. Reclaiming his dignity and self- respect only after he walked through his own front door.
Last night and most of today, after I nearly pulled my hair out and almost forgot my Christian upbringing over the frustration of having to repeat an activity at least ten times, could I relate with what my students must feel. I expect that trading places with them for six weeks will refresh my memory and restore my empathy for those young people on the sunny side of my desk.