Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Day 30: Qualmless

When I went on my first yoga retreat, we chose names for ourselves to reflect an aspect of personality we'd like to develop or strengthen. I chose Quinn (my middle name) the Qualmless. Before college I was socially awkward and shy. However, even in those tough years of 10-19 I had a streak in me that allowed me to be "the weird one" and do what I wanted--even if it meant doing so alone. I wore a bullet around my neck, dressed in ridiculously large men's collared shirts I got at the thrift store, and played online video games before it became socially acceptable to do so.

So, as long as I had some privacy, I could be fearless. I didn't mind looking like I didn't know how to dress. I wouldn't have minded if other kids knew I played video games alone. But I drew the line at talking about my nights playing Diablo or Ultima Online to other people. Better to let them chat about the water polo meet that I wasn't going to either play in or attend, or eavesdrop on their experiences getting high behind the snack bar during the football game. Soon enough I would be home and I could do my own thing with my quiet friend or two.

As teacher, though, we are called to be fearless on the daily. There is no hiding in front of the classroom. Whether you're the sage on stage or guide on the side, you are being watched, scrutinized, and evaluated. Even at the college level, students want to know what they can get away with. It's human nature.

(Case in point: I was lax about letting students plug in their cell phones to charge using the outlets in the front of class. Why not, I thought. It's the 21st century. Surely it's better than the student using it during class.

But today, someone stepped out of the room, and wouldn't you know it, her phone beeped the "you got a text" tone several times. After the third beep, the class took a moment and we looked around at each other to see whose it was. When I realized it was the absent student's, I knew it was time to say no more to the charging during class--especially in the front of the room.)

I think that because we know we're being scrutinized by our students--at least to some degree--there is a temptation to want to play it safe. If I were truly qualmless, I would try out more technology in the classroom. I did a blog project a few years ago in one of my developmental writing classes, and because I was surprised at the resistance I got from the students--and, to be fair, at their not-so-great blog posts--I simply didn't try it again. Then, over the summer, I taught a strictly online course using VoiceThread. One of the great features of VT is that students can leave comments and interact with each other via audio, text, or video quite easily, breaking out of the text-only zone so much of online is stuck in. Once again, lots of resistance. Eventually, I softened the use of VT, and I allowed them to leave their regular text-based comments on the discussion board if they wanted to (comfort zone, anyone?).

These, to me, are fear-based cop-outs. Because other assignments or mediums work well enough, I tend to back down if the first time around isn't pretty smooth sailing. That's not very fearless, nor is it evidence of the grit everyone is writing about these days.

It's not too late... the semester isn't even halfway over....

Too late to do a blog challenge or create a Facebook page?

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