Welcome To Your New World Course by Sally Gander

Syllabus

Course Title:
New World Studies: Teaching in the Living Room

Tutor Name:
Sally Gander

Office Hours:
Full flexibility required

Weekly Classes:
2 x 90 minute synchronous classes held in your living room 
Some synchronous asynchronisity may also be required
Teachers should be mindful of the room behind them.
Many prefer an artfully arranged bookshelf, but a wall of wood-chip is perfectly adequate.

Overview
In this course, teachers will explore the effect of apocalyptic events on their teaching, their relationships with their students and themselves as human beings. Teachers will have the opportunity to explore teaching in sweatpants, shorts or pyjamas, hanging out their washing or feeding the cat mere moments before they welcome students into their living room.       

They may be teaching across multiple time zones which means that classes are scheduled for when students return home from work, often when the teacher’s brain is getting ready for bed. Their students may also be contending with a strict lockdown and/or civil unrest. Teachers will gradually come to realise that students do not want to talk about this, but wish instead to be absorbed into an escape of learning. 

Learning Objectives
By the end of the course, the teacher will be able to:

  • Identify and explain their eye strain to their optician, who will shake his head and sigh
  • Compare and contrast the lighting and comfort of teaching at the kitchen table, with that of a picnic table in the living room.      
  • Demonstrate a range of activities suitable for extreme fatigue, including meditation, binge-watching Modern Family, and drinking double-strength gin & tonic. 
  • Design a virtual classroom with actual resources, writing exercises and supportive instructions that give the impression they know what they are doing.   

Virtual Classroom Etiquette
Teachers will quickly acclimatise to the tiled faces of their students, framed within their laptop screen. The perennial problem of matching faces to names is alleviated by a label on each tile, and they will also see a multitude of living room backdrops, or bedrooms, kitchens, dens, studies, gardens, and sometimes a forest.   

Teachers have the option to turn off their camera and/or their microphone.   
Repeat:  Teachers have the option to turn off their camera and/or their microphone. Consideration should be given to students who do not want to hear their teacher muttering and clattering across the room as they hastily fetch their laptop charger.      

Teachers will record their classes for students who are unable to attend, and later they will watch them back, horrified. They will hear their voice as it really is, see their gestures and pauses and head tilts, and they will remember the thoughts that rippled beneath the surface of their words. They will see themselves as other people see them and face a clear choice; curl up in a darkened room and vow never to be viewed by another human again, or share the recording with their students and walk away. It is highly recommended never to watch the recording in the first place.   

Workload Expectations
This can only be established once the course has commenced. For example, the teacher may have the idea to create a website of resources for their students, thereby beginning a descent into a rabbit-hole of unimaginable depths. When they finally emerge blinking into daylight, their eyes will be sandy pebbles but they will be triumphant at creating something that hums with the potential of their students’ future ideas and adventures

Assessment
Formative assessment will be carried out daily with a relaxing meditation. This is where the teacher will evaluate their state of mind, letting irrational fears and anxieties fall away to be replaced by the support of a universal intelligence beyond themselves and their laptop.   
Summative assessment is a portfolio of student feedback (kind and supportive), resources held in the virtual classroom (giving the appearance of knowledge and structure), and the teacher’s ability to continue writing pithy and interesting blog posts throughout the teaching period.      
Deadline: Just before the teachers’ friends and family think that he/she may be a figment of their imagination.

Plagiarism & Copyright Issues
Teachers will experience a seismic shift in their established paradigm while searching for texts online. Authors, it seems, are protective of their copyright, so while teachers may feel the relief of discovering a desired text they will soon find that it gradually fades down the page, followed by a request to subscribe or buy. Also, it is a truth universally acknowledged that reading texts on screen is hateful.   

Lateral thinking is required (See Learning Resources for further details).   

Learning Resources
Youtube — the teacher’s new best friend. Here teachers can find David Sedaris reading Invisible Made Visible while wearing full clown make-up.      

Caution: Students may be afraid of clowns.   

Podcasts — the medium of a new generation whose time is now, when ears and hearts are softer, more open, receptive to the message. Teachers will listen to Have You Heard George’s Podcast? with a sense of wonder and exhilarated awe.   

Dark or milk chocolate — taken little but often, particularly applicable for 10pm pre-seminar lethargy.   

A selection of How-To videos: —
How to be a teacher, writer, colleague, mother, friend, daughter, sister and lover with a balance that feels true to yourself.      
How to avoid eating too much chocolate while trying to be a teacher, writer, colleague, mother, friend, daughter, sister and lover.      

How to walk away from your laptop, walk out of your apartment, walk out of your building, walk to the park and enjoy the birds and the trees and the sun on your face.  

 Timetable of classes

 TopicAssignments
Week 1Sourcing equipmentCollect picnic table from a relative’s garage, removing any cobwebs & spider husks  
Week 2Staying one step ahead of the studentBuild a website that is not in the course requirements   Feel the thrill of building something new with the hope it will give the student a sense of the world beyond pandemic, beyond the isolation of their own home  
Week 3Staying one step ahead of the student  Pre-record a lecture in the kitchen with a notice taped to the door announcing Recording in Progress!   Do not fear the alarmist red dot on the screen – the teacher only gets to say everything once even when the lecture is live  
Week 4Staying one step ahead of the student  Make peace with the fact that sometimes it is the student who is ahead  
Week 5Staying one step ahead of the student  The student is definitely ahead
Week 6Time travel reality check – existential disbelief that this is the last class  1-2-1 tutorials – spend a long time on this, feeling how close the virtual is to the real when eye contact can be made   Find it difficult to say goodbye  

Employability Skills
At some point during this course, teachers will have a sudden or gradual realisation that all the goal posts of their profession have been changed. They may never teach in the same way again, with a full classroom of students sitting side-by-side or huddled in groups, and this will fill them with sadness and fear.      

‘What will become of us?’ they may ask themselves. But this course will show them a new way, a different kind of continuation. They will discover themselves to be adaptable and ever evolving creatures, and they will come to realise that, much like their students, they are seeds finding nourishment in the narrowest of crevices. And they will grow.   

Sally Gander, lockdown, distance learning, The Write Life, humour

Sally Gander writes fiction and creative nonfiction.  Her work has appeared in A Word in Your Ear and The Real Story, and is forthcoming in Litro. She has taught Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and Advanced Studies in England, and is currently writing a collection of personal essays. 

About the contributor

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1 COMMENT

  1. Very witty. I’m not a teacher, but imagine some teachers will be reading this and nodding their heads in agreement, wishing they knew this before they started to do Zoom classes.

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