The whole world is learning remotely now and a lot of us are not happy about it. Meeting students via Zoom is not even a poor substitute for teaching and school as know it, as we have known it since time immemorial, within the four walls of a classroom at school -- it's just not the same -- it feels unsatisfying. It is unsatisfying. Something we consign ourselves to, putting our shoulders under the yoke of Zoom and Canvas and Google apps and the diluted light of a webcam, because it's better than nothing, that is, no education at all. It's something no one wants to do or that is, something only agreed to grudgingly and unwillingly and as a second-, third-, or fourth-class resort when that's all you can.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, shelter-in-place orders and schools and universities and colleges going fully online to stop the spread of a highly contagious virus in 2020, online classes were a not-preferred alternative to teach and take.
I have been teaching fully online, asynchronous courses for Rutgers University for the past several years and more often than not students write on their course evaluations that they wish the course could have been in-person. They miss the opportunities for social interaction, being part of the community that a class becomes, gauging the responses of other students to what the teacher is saying rather than squinting at the checkerboard of headshots on Zoom or skimming through telegraphic chat messages. They miss, we all miss, being together and having that separate, specified place "where learning happens" -- a school.
I wanted to teach online. In 2014, I was offered the chance to teach two online courses, one on Medical Terminology and one on Classics and Film, for Rutgers. I wanted to teach and those two courses were my only option if I wanted to teach anything specifically in Classics, the academic discipline that, ever since I majored in it as an undergraduate, has been the basis of my teaching and writing. Before Rutgers, I had built up the Classics program -- classes in Latin, classical Greek, ancient history, Greek tragedy, Latin law and politics, mythology -- at a small Jesuit university in Jersey City, New Jersey, over nine years. I was a tenured associate professor when I left because my then-teenage, severely autistic with intellectual disabilities son, Charlie, had and was facing so many challenges that we had to change something in his and our lives and we moved to California.
Little did I know that everything we had lived through taking care of and teaching Charlie - including writing this blog -- and would live through, would jump start me being able to keep teaching during a global pandemic.
(As for Plato’s part: Stay tuned.)