Category Archives: Writing
Debra is a faculty member in the English Language Development (ELD) area here at Camosun College. I have had the privilege of working with her in bits and pieces over the years before COVID, but until last March/April, she was really only using PowerPoints and videos in the classroom, and using D2L minimally, mainly the News tool – “I was using that just to give them homework and make announcements.”
Imagine suddenly being faced with teaching completely online having not really used any online teaching tools before. It’s not a stretch of the imagination for many faculty members we in eLearning have been working with over the past almost a year. Debra herself “was certainly frightened of the technology and having to use the technology in such a different way…I didn’t have any idea how to use Collaborate, or I how to use most of the tools in D2L.” But, she overcame her fears and, coming back from vacation early, attended as many eLearning workshops as she could And most of all, she took the time to practice with the technologies, with her colleagues in ELD – peers supporting peers.
And it wasn’t only faculty supporting each other. Debra tells me that her first time teaching online went better than she expected because “[she] had done a lot of preparation and went in there believing [her students] were probably just as frightened of the experience as [she] was, and … [they] basically supported each other through the experience.” Like many faculty, Debra and her students were used to being in a face to face classroom where students “presume that you have a certain command of the situation.” But in this new world, “I knew that they really weren’t expecting me to have the same level of competence with the technology, and that took some of the pressure off.”
Debra says there wasn’t one moment that stood out for her during her first online teaching experience, but points to her students’ progress, as well as their positive feedback for her around the content and the delivery of the course as factors that made her feel good about the experience. In spite of everything, students were making good progress. And with regards to the fear of cheating which haunts many instructors during these online teaching times, she says that even though “I didn’t have the same control over their output, I did see them making progress. They couldn’t have cheated their way through to the outcomes that I saw at the end of the course. I did challenge them if I believed they cheated and I asked them to resubmit the work. But my main concerns were, are they turning up? Are they participating? Are they making progress? And that’s what I focus on.”
As for one thing she didn’t expect from the experience, Debra says she was surprised how much she enjoyed it. “Lock-down was a very isolating experience…so, having that contact with [students] every day, I felt less isolated … And I enjoyed the differences. It was a different experience and it was interesting and it was stimulating, and that’s why it was challenging.” And that challenge has, by pushing her out of her comfort zone (which is something familiar to her having done freelance work all over the world) reinvigorated how Debra feels about teaching. “I was afraid, but I decided to accept the challenge and I’m glad that I did.”
As for Debra’s vision for the future of her own teaching after everything that she’s learned over the past several months, she is currently preparing quizzes and other online materials, and planning to ”make much more use of technology than I did before…I might do a lot more online marking than I’ve done and I know I’ll make more use of technology.”
When I asked if she has any advice she would give colleagues, or any new faculty members who are suddenly having to teach online, Debra recalled an old joke: “How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time,” something a friend told her a few years ago when she faced other life-altering challenges. “I think that taking on a big challenge, that’s the only way to deal with it. If you try to envision the whole problem as one problem, the whole situation as one…it’s too much to deal with. But if you just break it down and take it a step at a time, it isn’t.” And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Supporting each other, and taking one step at a time.
Next for Debra, however, is a break. She finishes her Scheduled Development time at the end of February, and then will be off on vacation until she teaches this spring. This year I hope she gets a complete break and comes back refreshed, ready to meet her new students without panic, and with confidence.
For those of you who may not know, I work for Camosun College here in Victoria. I normally would not bring work to my personal blog, but I’ve been interviewing faculty and posting their stories on my work blog, and I am so incredibly proud of our faculty and everything they have been doing over the past year to keep their students supported and learning, I wanted to share their stories here. So to start, here is the introduction to this series of posts, just started, and not soon to be finished.
March 18th, 2020. For me, this day will forever mark the day we all went home and entered a new world, an unknown world, a world where we all had to reimagine our work and home lives. None of us knew how all-encompassing this new world would be for us, yet here we are, almost one year later, still standing (or sitting, as the case may be…)
For me, the first weeks I spent in this new world are now a blur as the college pivoted and everyone moved online. Then April hit, and a new term was fast approaching. We in eLearning began to offer workshops – workshops up the wazoo. In the old world, there were no workshops planned for April, but in the end and on the fly, in the four weeks in April we ran 20+ workshops for faculty on D2L, Collaborate, Kaltura, facilitating online learning, creating online community, online assessments, and accessibility in the online classroom. At the end of every day, every day being 10-12 hours long (workshops, consults, emails…), I could not think or hold myself upright. Yes, it was exciting to help faculty and run workshops with 20-30 people in them (people now know who we are!), but exhausting. And not just because of those endless consults, workshops and emails, but also because I heard their stories. Faculty in tears trying to get things ready for spring and afraid they couldn’t do it. Faculty worried because they didn’t know where they could turn for help. Faculty up for the challenge, but not knowing how they could get everything planned to the quality they expected from themselves.
Then, the spring term began, while workshops, consults, and meetings continued to keep faculty supported, while planning ahead to the next day, week, month, and term.
I have to tell you, and I am not trying to sound trite: faculty at Camosun are all heroes. From the faculty members who pivoted into remote panicked instruction in March (believe me, this was NOT “online learning”), to faculty who gave up vacation, Scheduled Development, and other plans to get their spring and fall courses ready for online instruction (some of them developing 2-3 courses in weeks, when it takes 2 months or ideally more to develop ONE online course – I don’t have to tell you it is not a simple matter to take a face-to-face course, even one you’ve taught multiple times, and put it into an online format), to faculty who spent (and continue to spend) many additional hours every day continuing to develop their courses while they taught, while trying to support their students, who also didn’t sign up for this. And in addition to all the amazing faculty I am privileged to work with and support, I have to take a moment to acknowledge my colleagues in the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning – I am not sure I would still be here without you having my back.
And now, almost one year later, I want to tell the stories of our faculty to the world. So, I am embarking on a new series of posts where I will present interviews with some of our faculty at Camosun College. You will meet amazing instructors from English Language Development, Nursing, Business, English, Anthropology, Psychology, Statistics, Child, Family and Community Services, Hospitality, Trades, and many, many more – I am adding every day to the list of folks I will be talking to this term. I want to thank all of them for agreeing to share their experiences, both highs, and lows, with me and with the world.
A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.
Waiting in the car in the rain.
I mean, really? What else is there to do when you are waiting in the car in the rain but take pictures of random things? Inclines abound, nothing is straight. Not the street, not the sidewalk, not the trees, not the building. Choices are, choose one thing to be straight, or edit the hell out of the picture to create straightness where there is none. There is something to be said for leaving things as they are, straight or not. Probably a weird metaphor there somewhere for life too. Accept the things you cannot changes and celebrate the things you can’t? Or something like that.
This is what you get when you shoot from the passenger seat, no rolling down the window, especially in the rain cause, I don’t want to get wet in the name of a shot that won’t be “perfect” anyway.
What do I really like about this picture? Maybe it’s the raindrops, maybe it’s the trees all scraggly in their end of winter beauty. But I think mainly it’s that it’s all over the place. Trees and poles and grass and is there a face staring at me from somewhere in that building? Cool.
A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.
This time I’m really going to try and put more of my writing here, so, here is the piece I read for my writing class this evening: it’s called Tetraptych
Frank stood proud next to his handiwork, fresh bulbs poking up, camellias ready to bloom at last, and lawn clipped to perfection. He took off one glove and pulled a dust covered cloth from his pocket, not really a handkerchief, but handy for wiping the dirt mingled sweat off his brow. He breathed deeply – ah, the sweet air, remnants of winter making it crisper than it would be in a few weeks. But the snow was almost gone, lasting only a day or two as it did here. Frank bent over to pick up his clippers, new and shiny, the best he could buy. Suddenly a sharp pain wrenched through his chest, and he fell to his knees, the damp grass soaking into his pants, then his shirt, and finally his face as he gasped out his last breath.
Sweat glistened on his face as Joe jogged down the path. He looked up, and closed his eyes for a moment, feeling the warmth on his face. Opening his eyes, he squinted and raised his arm to shade them against the low February sun wishing he had not lost his sunglasses last week. How amazing to finally see the sun, but so strange still to see the paths so empty. Not as empty as they were six months ago, but he was used to the lawns and benches dotted with the gawking tourists from all over the world, come to see this oasis of Canada. Grimacing he slowed, the stitch in his side coming out of nowhere. The unexpected heat was beginning to get to him. He slowed to a walk and headed for a cluster of benches. Always benches….they were everywhere in this city. This one sat next to a large camellia bush with green buds blushing pink, and little yellow heads of daffodils popping out among the green. Spring was on its way. Something about the bush bothered him. He couldn’t put his finger on it. Was it something hitting his nostrils? The stillness? Slowly circling behind he stopped. Boots sticking out warning him of something he would rather not see.
The ambulance arrived in a blaze of lights and sirens. Paramedics rushed to the scene, but found quickly that there was nothing they could do; the old gardener, cold and gray, was beyond help. Police questioned the runner, but it looked like the unexpected heat had just had its way with the old man. As the paramedics took the body away, one reached down to pick up a glove, trodden into the dirt under the bush, clippers near by. Wondering if dropping the glove was the last thing the old man had done before death had taken him, Sarah tossed it aside, grabbed the clippers and pocketed them. They were shiny and still had the price tag on them… you could never have enough good clippers.
Emily came upon the scene later that week. Working at home meant enjoying lunch break walks with her camera along the inner harbour walkway. And today she was enjoying the solitude and sun, in spite of the wind which was pervasive these days. The bench, seeming to watch the calm waters, caught her eye, with the glove discarded, flecks of dirt still clinging to it. Kneeing down, she pulled out her phone and framed the shot, then looked around, wondering how it got there, and why on earth there was always only one lonely glove left behind.
A response in starting over with a new daily avoidance (or non-avoidance, as the case may be), here with the Ragtag Daily Prompt , today is Bench.
How could I not join in today when I am all about the benches for my new photography project? Here are some benches in the (fleeting) snow…