Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

Why I feel safer teaching online

Image credit: Shutterstock

Clearer boundaries = less emotional labor and more physical safety

  • I’m not having students coming into my office crying because they didn’t do what I’ve been telling them to do all term and now have a low grade, which they are now (in the last week or two of the term) certain is going to ruin their lives forever if I don’t provide a way to help them “fix” the problem.
  • I’m not having students coming into my office, complaining about their grade or making other unreasonable demands for “accommodation,” and getting angry if I refuse to spend extra unpaid time and energy to find a way to “fix” the issue for them.
  • I’m not having students demand meeting after meeting until I give them what they want. Some students have learned how to counter a professor’s refusal to “fix” a low grade or to “accommodate” an unreasonable demand by making their issue into a battle of attrition. They will send an escalating series of longer — and often more personally attacking or demanding or TMI — emails. When their professors refuse to have a whole debate over email, the student demands an in-person meeting. If the in-person meeting doesn’t lead to the response they want, they ask to meet again, then demand another meeting to discuss it some more, then a mediated meeting with the department chair, then with the Dean, and so on until their professor decides it’s not worth the time or hassle and capitulates. Many administrators do not see the students’ requests for multiple meetings about an issue we have already responded to as manipulation or even bullying (even when the meetings basically give the student a forum to verbally attack the professor) and require us to we meet with students as many times as the students request. This is particularly the case with female faculty and instructors. So far, this has not happened now that I’m offering to meet with students in recorded Zoom sessions.

More significantly, not being a sitting duck in an office or classroom on campus is making me feel physically safer.

Cartoon with a group waving the U.S. Flag, a group waving the Confederate Flag, and a man saying, “OK, folks, today we’re gotta reenact a school board meeting.”
Image credit: Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10/7/21

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Writing on the Wall

Writing on the Wall

Suzie Null is a former middle and high school teacher and current professor of Teacher Education. Follow her on Twitter at WritingontheWall @NullSet16