From classrooms to chatrooms: A professor’s perspective on the transition to online classes

By Peter Hanink, contributing writer

Even under normal circumstances, teaching requires a lot of planning — Please, put that down — Where was I? 

Right …. Long before a professor sets foot in a classroom, she must devote countless hours to developing a lesson plan, designing a course,

—Baby, not right now, I’m working — not to mention the years of reading and researching and writing that goes into obtaining a master’s or doctorate —Why don’t you see if Froggy wants to have a tea party and let Papa get back to work?

Sorry, you see, every time I sit down to write, my daughter wants to play, or wants a snack or wants to sing me a song and… you know what? I really want that too.

(Eduardo Rangel | The Poly Post)

I know that I’m supposed to be “transitioning my classes to a new modality of teaching” — that is, I’m supposed to take a class designed around a classroom and figure out how to squeeze it into a chatroom — and I’m trying!  

But all I really want to do is hold my daughter and forget about the dread I’ve been feeling for the past few weeks as my partner and I make batches of soup, stock the pantry and wait.

As a professor, I have always tried to balance my work and personal life. At work, I’m “Dr. Hanink” who wears a suit, lectures in front of dozens of students, and researches urgent social issues such as police violence. 

At home, I’m “Papa” who wears a tiara, plays Legos with my son and sings along for the 5,000th time to the “Moana” soundtrack.

Now, those walls are coming down. They have to.

Like many of your professors, I’ve taught classes online many times before. 

What’s different this time is the circumstances. I don’t have weeks or months to read up on pedagogy and technology. 

I don’t have the opportunity to test out recording equipment and software. 

I don’t have the luxury of practice takes and retakes when a trash truck rolls by or the doorbell rings.

No, instead, now I have a few days, my laptop and my dining room table. 

And this means that I will have to be more flexible.

I’ll have to be more flexible about what content is essential for my students to learn and what’s not; which policies are necessary and thus can’t be changed and which rules can be bent or broken; what expectations are fair and important to ensure the high standards we associate with a university education and what expectations are just plain unrealistic given the circumstances.

And while all this is happening, my attention keeps getting pulled between the stream of updates about closures, quarantines and toilet paper shortages. 

Along with the stream of interruptions from my kids, who, though they don’t understand what’s going on, know that something is very different and very wrong. What’s that? 

Of course, I would love some tea. Thank you! Now where did your brother get off to?

Peter Hanink is an assistant professor in the  Cal Poly Pomona sociology department. Hanink has been lecturing at CPP since 2018. This is his first year as an assistant professor. 

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