Friday, November 14, 2014

The Post that Gets Rebecca Fired (or, "On Teaching Online")

Okay, not really. At least I hope not. 

It is just that it is really difficult to write a humorous article about your current employment because the only way to make it any good involves heaping ridicule upon one’s bosses, clients, or co-workers (hi, guys!) and that shit, as I mentioned before, will get you fired.

So we’ll see how this goes.

Technically, I’m not doing anything wrong. Except that I routinely use my closed laptop as a means to convey food and beverages from room to room and up and down stairs. That is going to backfire catastrophically at some point.

Teaching online freaking rocks, especially if your hygienic comfort zone is somewhere in the range of “slovenly”, as mine generally is.

The isolation makes us strange, though. It really does. A few times a year we all meet for training. We creep into the hotel ballroom like the munchkins emerging from among Technicolor flowers in the MGM movie The Wizard of Oz. We huddle in small groups, talking about how strange and terrifying all the traffic was.  Everyone’s outfit is elaborately coordinated, as though the product of hours of absentminded contemplation while various programs took forever to load.

Teaching online is like dating online. The extent of the information people have about you is a photo, some email interaction, and your voice in the live classroom setting.

That is a looooooooooooooooot of leeway. Some might argue: too much. Not me, though.

Things I have done while actively participating in staff meetings and/or while teaching a 10th grade English class:

·         Treated gaping flesh wounds
·         Signed for various incoming parcels and packages
·         Peed
·         Been vomited on
·         Conveyed elaborate instructions to various repairpersons using exclusively body language
·         Pursued a two-year-old in a horse costume down the sidewalk in a rainstorm (my headset has amazing range)
·         Mopped things you don’t want to know about off of the floor
·         Picked out an outfit a la 80’s-movie-style montage

Try any of that shit at your office and see what happens to you.

It is a two way street, though. At any given time, my students can do what so many of us would have given anything to do in the middle of a high school English class: walk the eff away.

And they do. They don’t tell you either. I could not even hazard a guess as to how many times I have wrapped up an eloquent five-minute-long response, (to a question the student asked, mind you) asked if that made sense, and been met with silence.

My solution is to be as strange as possible. My secret hope is that my student’s recently acquired girlfriend is sitting on the couch.

Yeah, babe, online school is pretty okay. I can do whatever I want. It’s pretty sweet.

Then I start singing into the computer microphone.

Oh Tyyyylerrrrrrrrrrr, we really need to finish your eeeeeeeessssssayyyyyyyyy……
Your main points are pretty goooooooooood….
but let’s look at that concluuuuuuuussssssiiiionnnnnn.

Even when they are actually paying attention communication can get a bit snarled.

During one session, while discussing the Civil Rights Movement, I listed several examples of manifestations of Jim Crow laws. Instead of the combination of quotation marks and the end parenthesis I had typed, the program auto-filled a perky little emoticon.

My message read, “Several examples of this were segregated seating on buses, as well as restaurants with signs reading ‘whites only *winky face*.”

As if to say, wouldn’t that be hilarious and fun?

Backpedaling out of an involuntary emoticon situation is something I never thought I would have to do. 

And finally, the three chaos factors that are in perpetual orbit around my desk: the children. These spilling, throwing, smashing, screaming juggernauts are bloody determined to get me fired.

The middle one has been known to  (in the forty five seconds it takes me to get to the restroom and back) climb up onto my desk, grab my office phone, poke the redial button and gibber in her strange alien tongue into the receiver until she sees me running at her. Fortunately, my deranged phone thinks that when you hit redial, you actually want to call the staff member whose extension happens to be the first four digits of the last number you called. And all of the teachers already know I'm weird. 

Nothing derails a live online lesson on citing your sources like a tiny voice saying, Mommee, remember when Ishmael lived in your belly and then came out of your crotch?

Or screaming from the upstairs restroom, 


And so on.

I can state categorically and without guile that there is never a dull day in my line of business. Both in spite of this and because of it, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

1 comment:

  1. i just laughed until I cried, and woke up the dog. Poor puppeee! Mommy isn't having a seizure. That was happy screaming.