It's Sunday and for the first time in a while, I actually have Sunday almost totally off (i.e., no online work, since it's the last day for my online classes today so I don't have anything to prepare for next week) and that gives me some time to think. This morning I went into my online classrooms and there was of course a blasting Blame The Professor note from a student. I wasn't surprised, as there always is on Sundays, since I post grades a day or two early. But as I read it (the student was blaming me for his mistake in posting the wrong assignment), it really hit me how much abuse I've had to take from these places. I don't entirely blame the students. I have this sinking feeling that these online colleges that I've worked for (not the best of the best, to be sure) have had people making promises to the student that they should not be making regarding what kind of grades the student will get and what the expectations will be for learning and when the student gets to the classes and actually finds out that it's much harder than he/she thought and all of the wonderful As and Bs he got in high school 25 or 30 years ago are suddenly not appearing as he expected, out comes the Blame The Professor game. It's especially horrendous during the last few weeks of class, since this is their last chance to point the finger at someone other than themselves for what they haven't and should have done weeks ago and they know it's too late to do anything about it.
When I started teaching college courses online several years ago, I really thought it was a wonderful thing - I could do my job, help students, and have the flexibility to plan my time and work from the comfort of my home.
It's been a big illusion and, in some cases, a big lie. While I do have flexibility, I actually have to be "present" much more than if I were teaching a face-to-face class. Much much more. Also, I've come to realize that there has to be a human component to learning for it to be successful, both for me and for the students. What I mean is, there has to be something that gives students more of a face-to-face access to instructors, like a live chat or two per week or even per course. It means more work for the instructor (sometimes, a lot more work!) but it's so worth it because the students and instructor see each other as human beings
when they can either talk in real time or see the instructor (or both).
One of the greatest drawbacks of the place that I'm working for now is that it doesn't have any component that allows students to see me as a human being or me to see them as human beings. It's all communication through message boards and email. As a result, the students don't see me as human and treat me without respect and likewise, I sometimes find I resent and loath them (especially when, one after the other, they do poorly on an assignment that I know they can do better on). Is that learning? Not in my book.
So this has taught me a lot. Right now, I have no courses from this school (they assign on an as-need basis, like most schools) and, to be honest, I have a feeling I'm going to be off their roster soon anyway. I'm not quitting, as it's work that pays fine and is good to supplement an income, but I'm starting to think about what I want to do with my skills and my career and, yes, what I'm worth and what I deserve (though that sounds quite arrogant, but it's true nonetheless) and where I can do the most good. Now I'm at the point where I've left another grad school program and planning on getting more skills and training to add to what I already do.
But I've been reading about places that I can work with my skills and be able to work with students in a setting that is more about the student wanting to learn and my helping them get where they want to go rather than a rigid system where they resent me as an authority figure who can make or break their education by giving them a good or bad grade and an organization that is more interested in getting to governmental financial aid that students are given than in getting the student through their degree program (check out http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/ ... ducation-0
I'm not saying that this is a paradise either. It still has it's own pressures and frustrations. But at this point in my life (my 40's), I am at my limit in terms of how much crap I'm willing to take. All my life I have been the target of criticism and I know that's something I need to work on (i.e., not being so hypersensitive and anxious about it). Both of my parents were deeply deeply critical of everything that I did. I was basically treated like a mentally challenged child who didn't know how to make decisions for herself and needed Mommy and Daddy to make decisions for her. They had different approaches to how they criticized (my mom would make sarcastic comments in the guise of jokes that could really string at any moment; my father would be much craftier about it, starting out with "Well, I suggest..." and go into full-blown lectures of why he was right and I was wrong and the message was always, "here's what you need to do because you're too stupid to know what to do and if you don't do it, you're an idiot.") But the result was the same.
And I am very much to blame for where I am now too because I never resisted their criticism like most teenagers do. Well, I did a bit but not in healthy ways (which is one reason why I still turn to food when I want to be rebellious or get my stress out). I never learned to stand my ground or set the boundaries until I was in my 30's, so I never developed a sense of confidence in any decision that I make. I'm struggling now with giving myself positive feedback because even though it seems like I've screwed up a lot in my life (many people would say starting and leaving 3 MA programs in the middle and 1 PhD program in the middle is pretty screwed up...), I've taken full responsibility for my actions, I've made no excuses for myself, AND I know those decisions were the right ones for me at the time. So I have proven to myself that my decisions are right for me. It's dealing with the criticism around me that's such a challenge.
So I am no longer willing to be the target of blame and abuse by anyone, not my parents, and not my students. I am no longer willing to be the punching bag for the sake of a job because some corporate organization wants to rob me of my ability to make decisions that are right for the students and encourage them to learn even when it's hard and frustrating for them because that corporate body is more interested in getting the student's funding than it is in seeing the student succeed in getting their degree. I have the right to try and make a profession for myself where I am helping students who are motivated to learn not because of some letter on their report card but because they want the skills they know they will need in the future. I am prepared to put in ten times the amount of work I've been putting in and work 3 jobs if necessary and have my family snicker at me for not having a "real" job ("real" being 8-5 on a full time salary with a company that you're employed with for XX years) if it means providing me with the flexibility that I need to do the things that I love to do (like taking walks, writing in my novel(s), trying out new recipes, reading).
OK, I'm done with my self-pep talk for now