I am in week 4 of teaching a remote, asynchronous course at Columbia College Chicago. Despite the fact that I have not met any of the students in person, it’s going pretty well. I like the students and their blog proposals, their discussions are fun and their reactions and questions are interesting. They are also forgiving of the couple of times I’ve goofed up on the assignments, which I appreciate.
The biggest surprise to me, a hardened veteran reporter who can’t ever remember missing a deadline, is how badly I feel when I have to mark assignments late or missing. “What’s going on with them?” I wonder. “Do they know the deadline? Are they sick or overwhelmed with work, family, school?” Columbia, a media arts school based literally under the L tracks, draws a wonderfully diverse and creative student body and the students are often holding down one or more jobs while they juggle their studies. I really want every one of them to succeed.
Get a grip, I tell myself. They are not going to learn to meet deadlines until they have to meet deadlines. I still remember the glare of a city editor when I pushed too close to the ticking minute hand on the newsroom clock. My professors in my long-ago Marquette University journalism school, were heartless in giving us an F for any missed or late assignment. It put the fear of deadlines in us, not to mention the fear of failing.
Yet, how can I do that? This is a different era, thank goodness. Although I and most of my friends worked part-time, college costs were a lot less in those days and we didn’t have to deal with a pandemic as well. None of us were responsible for younger siblings or our own kids in those days.
Teaching requires imparting hard truths as well as supportive coaching. For now, I’ll grant extensions and gently nag them to get the work done on time. I’m not sure what my attitude will be when we get to week 8 or 9 or 15. It’s hard to shake off a lifetime of deadline behavior.