Composition and Contagion: I feel like I failed

Caveat: the world is on fire right now. I am not talking about expecting more from my students. I am talking about how I could have done better.

I knew how challenging it was to keep the attention of my small group of students in class. I was not prepared for how impossible it would be in the switch to remote learning. While there were a couple that reached out to me and discussed their assignments, the rest seemed to only contact me out of necessity or out of desperation on my part. I don’t blame them.

I have/had no idea what was going on their lives and I am fully aware that I was one of at least four or five faculty all vying for their attention (let alone the electronic administrative arms of housing, billing, health, etc.) but I now realize that I was never going to be able to reach them once they were gone. I failed to establish enough of a rapport during the semester that, once we weren’t mandated into the same room for a period of time, I had lost engagement.

As a student in my (hopefully) last semester of coursework, I get how hard it is to engage, how hard it is to drag yourself to the screen for something you may not feel 100% invested in at that moment. As a student I failed and, in many ways, am still failing. I am trying to fail forward though, and make some progress.

Maybe I should have reached out even more. Maybe I should have required synchronous meetings. Maybe I should have ramped up the work instead of ramping it down. Perhaps my desire to give them a break was the last nail in my coffin. Maybe that was the sign to/that my class wasn’t important. I may never know, since not one of them did the course evaluation.

Which is a shame, because right now the only lessons I can take away to help improve my teaching are the ones gleaned from the empty spaces where class discussion would have been. I didn’t challenge them enough. I didn’t demand enough from them. I didn’t spark their interest. So many things I want to work on and adjust to make sure that, in-person or remote, students value my class.

But until I can transition to prep-work, I have to finish this semester as a student and try to be engaged and get my work done. Sometimes I feel like I’m failing everywhere.