October 5 Day 211: Anxiety is Everywhere

I woke up from an anxiety dream this morning. It was a classic unprepared-for-lecture-sure-the-people-would-figure-out-I-was-an-imposter dream. I don’t get them often. In fact, the last one was back on July 4 Day 118: Anxious Dreaming, and it was about teaching classes this autumn. I know that these dreams are manifestations of my worries and doubts. I try not to be a worrier, but this year I’m having a hard time avoiding it.

I worry that …

  • …the teaching choices I have made are overly complicated and get in the way of learning rather than aiding it.
  • …everything takes too much time in the remote environment—from moving to groups, to asking questions, to learning the technology.
  • …students will fall through the cracks because of the less personal nature of online interactions.

Should I spend time to monitor students’ Zoom attendance or numbers of hours spent in the course management system to know who is or is not engaging with the material? Does that time even exist in my life? The worries go on.

A new perspective arrived in my inbox. Let me paraphrase my student, “I wanted to express some concern for myself. I am a transfer student and this is my first quarter at UWT. It was difficult at my last university, especially once COVID hit. We did not get as far as we should have in Calc I. The professor told us we would learn what we missed in Calc II. I have been really struggling…

So we all worry, it’s not just me. Will my students be saying the same thing about this class when they move forward to Calc III?

I keep telling myself that things will smooth out—after all today was only the second meeting of my fall quarter classes. The discussion board this weekend worked well. Ninety five percent of the class started the online homework. There were good breakout room interactions, many people engaged on the shared whiteboard—improving their control and penmanship while working through class activities.

Last Spring it took about three weeks to become comfortable in the remote synchronous learning environment. The students adjusted to my expectations. I adjusted to theirs. We worked together to find the balance. I need to be patient, believe in myself and my students, and work to make it happen again.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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