Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Portrait of My Student

This is one of my students. She's lovely, isn't she? Or he? Or them? I don't have the proper pronouns. All I have is this avatar. 

What do I know about this student? Well, I know he, she or they likes cute kittens. Or perhaps Pokemon monsters, or whatever this thing is. I know that this student is likely a fan of bubble tea, which is what appears to be in the cup. 

That's enough for any teacher to build a productive relationship, I guess. Or I'm supposed to guess. I'm told I'm not allowed to demand that students show their faces online. It's a privacy issue. 

That's hard for me to understand. I do understand I ought not to be able to see my students' homes if they choose to keep them private. However, there's an easy fix for that. On Zoom, you can be in PeeWee's Playhouse, or the Batcave, or on the moon, or anywhere. If I can set up a background, every student can set up a better one. 

In fact, I have a bunch of students who only show their foreheads. Maybe they're shy. I don't give them a hard time about it. I appreciate that they show themselves at all. At least I know they're there. When I call on them, they answer. The bubble-tea-drinking creature pictured here? Who knows? I will call on bubble tea, and I may or may not get a response.

In fact, I call on quite a few icons, quite frequently, just to ascertain whether or not they are a. there, b. paying attention, or c. none of the above. It is quite an outrageous waste of my time, and that of the students actually in attendance. But that's what happens when the gutless DOE decides to protect the rights of students to pretend to attend. Honestly, they may as well allow sleeping in class. There's little or no actual distinction. Whether the student is asleep, playing a video game, watching a movie, or doing things of a more questionable nature, the result is identical. 

Personally, I've bent over  backward to accommodate my students in these times. I've abandoned actual tests. Honestly, I could not blame students tempted to look up the answers on their phones, and it would be quite unfair to those who don't. My tests are now writing projects. My homework is now done entirely in class as a group. All you have to do is hand it in. Remarkably, or not, many students do not. They tend to be the same students who float icons and never, ever participate. I check their grades and they are failing absolutely every class, not just mine. 

It's hard to see why my time is well-spent calling the homes of students who have single-digit averages in every single class. It's particularly frustrating because I am requiring less outside time than I ever have. I'm not a big fan of homework. I will give only 10-15 minutes of it daily during normal times. During these times, we complete it in class. I'm not sure what else to do.

I'm sure of this, though. We don't allow students in live classes to show up with paper bags over their heads. There are very good reasons for that. There are also very good reasons, absent truly extenuating circumstances, to require cameras be on during online classes. Anyone who argues otherwise has never been an online teacher.

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