Monday, May 16, 2022

NYT: "My College Students are Not Okay" by Jonathan Malesic

 First, here's the article:

 The TL;dr on this is that students are tired--exhausted, even--and disengaged. When they go to class, they won't speak up, as if they're watching you on Zoom. 

Based on an N of 1 (me) over the past two years, I agree on some things Malesic's saying, but not all.  

  • First of all, we need to separate out Zoom classes, in-person classes, and designed-to-be-online and asynchronous classes. These are different animals. I only taught a few Zoom classes, and they seemed to work pretty well. 
  • The in-person classes? I guess I didn't post a lot about them, but honestly, they were great. We wore masks but it worked fine (worked a treat, as the Brits say). Was it their energy, being glad to be back, that made the energy in that classroom? Was it partly me (ditto)? Was it the approximately 1.5 times the effort that I put into those classes? More effort doesn't always result in a better class experience (shudders in memories of classes past), but maybe this time it helped?
  • Online classes: these take 2 x the effort of an in-person class, and this semester especially I'd estimate that my time was spent about 80% on teaching and the remaining 10% each on research and service. This isn't ideal and is definitely not what my contract calls for, but it felt hugely necessary. Some thoughts: 
    • In an in-person class, you know how sometimes you feel as though you are emotionally lifting them, encouraging them to speak, etc. and are wiped out at the end of the class, and at other times you might be a little tired or whatever but their energy helps you? This semester, I poured so much energy and time into teaching that it wore me out--but then they started giving back, even though it was an online class--more & better responses, coming to office hours (via Zoom), etc. 
    • And they deserve the credit for coming through so well--they really do. To borrow a piece from Bardiac's post, they really did exceed expectations, by and large; those weren't "well, it's COVID so it's an A" grades at all. They know what the expectations for writing are, and some of them complain mightily about having to write in complete sentences, etc., at first. It's a kind of "Do you know who I am?" attitude that sometimes afflicts seniors and majors who claim they haven't been called to account for their writing before, but then they learn and it's a pleasure to see the change for the better.
    • While it's doubtless true, as some of Malesic's interviewees say, that you can't teach some courses online (hello, lab science!), I don't teach lab science and would say that some things can be taught & discussed just fine online. I'd say in any given class about 5-10% were "disengaged" in Malesic's sense.
    • I just looked at course evals, and the students seem to have gotten a lot out of the classes, so there's that. 

But yes, to Malesic's point: more requests for extensions than usual, etc. do point to their being exhausted and burned out. 

And so are we, aren't we?


maya said...

Yes, we are! You've probably seen this?

Much of my experience teaching Eng Lit and WGS over the pandemic lines up with yours--in person went great and evals were (surprisingly) kind. I had one class that I consider a failure--a first year experience where it seemed I wasn't able to connect at all, sadly.

xykademiqz said...

I taught in person throughout the pandemic, and those classes went absolutely great. For most students, my class was the only one they had in person, and they were so grateful to be back and see fellow students, it was really touching. My evaluations from this period were stratospheric (I got two instances of 5/5 in that period, one of them for a required undergrad class that often has grumpy students resentful that they had to take it).

I will have to teach online this summer and am not looking forward to it at all. Most students will take it asynchronously (internships, summer abroad etc) and I am dreading taking into the void.

undine said...

maya--Thanks! I followed the link and read the article. That kind of burnout is real, and cutting down on projects would be a way to help. Maybe that's why the complete concentration on teaching this semester (actually, all this year) felt better. It was something that I am good at and that I could actually DO, as opposed to writing something, which was so anxiety-provoking that I couldn't face it. Except for that one class, do you feel as though they're being kinder this year (the students)?

xykademiqz--congrats on those amazing numbers; a 5/5 almost never happens! They do seem grateful to be back in person, although I had the odd experience of having a few of them in my online classes say something like "I was grateful that you checked in and held live office hours, even if I never came to them."