Monday, September 7, 2020

Ready or not, here we go

"This will be the most difficult period of our careers. But this is what it takes to live and work during a natural disaster. And we are the lucky ones." - Stan Yoshinobu, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education 

"This is definitely the most demanding and stressful period of preparation for a semester that I have ever had." - Alan Jacobs, Baylor University  
"Due to social distancing requirements & classroom sizes, my 3 courses of 25-28 students have become 6 hybrid courses of half that size. I'm essentially managing the logistics of 6 hybrid courses, & even as a very organized prof teaching courses I've done before this is an astonishing amount of work. It's what I need to do right now, and I'm thankful for a job that I love at an institution I love. But wow, we faculty need a serious break and some appreciation for all this. If you are faculty & still planning courses, do what you can to find ways to make things even a little easier on yourself this term, especially when the emotional support our students need will demand a lot from us--much more than usual, from what I'm already seeing." - Jessica Coblentz, St. Mary's College, Indiana  
"Reducing burnout in what might be an entirely new teaching environment should be on everyone’s mind." - Lance Piantaggini (MagisterP) 
As I anticipate the beginning of fall semester classes tomorrow, there is much to be grateful for: Briercrest College is located in a rural area that has not suffered a significant Covid outbreak. The college has worked hard to develop a solid plan that will follow provincial guidelines. And we have students who are eager to return to the classroom. 

From the academic side of things, the plan is to run two seven-week terms in the fall semester, with a combination of daily 45-min tutorials and asynchronous video lectures that we record in advance. To meet physical distancing requirements, large classes are divided into multiple sections. The intensive format means less time for grading and for class prep during the term itself. In my experience, the process of preparing, recording, editing, and uploading video lectures at least doubles the time I would normally spend preparing for and delivering a conventional lecture. Even with the summer to prepare, it won't be easy for faculty members to pull this off. 

My course assignment for the fall looks like (1) Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, a one-week modular class in the seminary (two weeks ago on Zoom), (2) two sections of Jewish Backgrounds in the first term (including another 18 of a projected 24 video lectures that I have yet to record), and (3) two sections of Biblical Hebrew taught as a living language in the second, fortunately with extra face-to-face class time instead of video lectures.

My semester theme is the chorus from this Bruce Cockburn song:

"Under the Mercy and I'm Okay."