Online Teaching Sent My Pedagogy Back to Square One

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Right after spring break, my students and I piled onto a Zoom call and tried to do what, before Covid-19, we would have done in a physical classroom: enter into a discussion about a really great book.

The call went so badly that when it was done, I cried.

I experienced going online this past spring as a terrible loss. All my cues were gone: laughter, the rustle of candy wrappers, the shared eye-rolls, the thoughtful expressions. There was no ambient noise on my Zoom call, because everyone was a good internet citizen and muted their mics when they weren’t speaking. Where once I could have glanced around the room to take in my students’ body language, I was now left trying to process nine small squares of information at a time, my students’ heads floating beside and on top of each other as if we were the Brady Bunch. I talked a lot, which ran against every principle of my pedagogy. …

Living in one place — in a single, physical location at a single point in time — ran spectacularly up against the dictates of my PTSD.

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New York City at night with all the bright lights.

I was already late when I landed in New York in the summer of 2007. LaGuardia was nothing more than a wash of noise and a glimpse of blue carpet as I hurried to a cab. In moments I was speeding toward Soho, fingering loose twenties in my pocket and hoping my hotel wouldn’t turn out to be a dive. Officially, I was in town for a seminar—five and a half days to meet with others in the historical profession. …

Catherine Denial

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