Blindspots? Get Over It.

I am teaching composition this fall for three sections of first year, first semester students.  It’s all online. No one is happy about that, but I am.  I get to try something new.  One positive ( or negative, I ain’t sure) is that I get to have an embedded tutor in each class, a graduate or undergraduate who gets a pedagogy credit for helping.  I got an email from their supervisor asking me to schedule them for the semester.

Hi Terry,

We are working on scheduling ETs for all the ENG 105 labs and wondered if you all plan to hold zoom meetings for your labs at a specific time each week? We are assuming that if you do, you’ll hold them during one of your lab time slots so if possible, please let us know which and we’ll be able to finish up the scheduling for your specific ETs.

Thanks so much and I hope you both are well.

I respond, perhaps a bit too directly, but it is hard to schedule anyone for specific times in an online class like you would a f2f class.

I plan on having both synchronous and asynchronous meets with E105 classes via Zoom, but since I am scheduled all online there are no “lab time slots” or as Topnet says, “no courses with assigned times”. The ET’s need to be prepared for something different because of this. What that will be, I am uncertain. It is likely we will have to do 1to1 scheduling of conferences using Zoom and Calendly. I worry about the demands this emergent scheduling will make on the ETs. I think they will need a spirit of improvisation outside the scaffolding of the course throughout the semester. That is antithetical to most conventional pedagogy’s rigid syllabi and scheduling whatnots. ETs need to be prepared for the unconventional, an oxymoron if ever there was.


Plague time exposes every blindspot in our institutional structures, doesn’t it.? Who knew that the idea of scheduling would ever be exposed as the rigid and brittle system that it is? The ETs for this class need to be prepared for a messy, adaptive system of kludges and workarounds. And…all of this will only happen with the help of our so-called “underprepared” students. Isn’t that just another blindspot to have segregated students by perceived deficits? We (me and the ETs) will have to change our way of thinking about our students. We won’t make it as a community if we don’t focus on how they are plenty good and have sufficient skills as a community.

<<Off soapbox>>

I need ETs who…well, I don’t really have a job description for this course. It will be quite different teaching this as an online only course. I don’t know how adept they will be using screencasting, online scheduling tools, social annotation tools, research tools, Twitter, You Tube, Bb, and other video and audio tech. I will demo whatever tech they need.

Of course, we could just say that the ETs will mark papers and have individual conferences and that’s it, but then I would say forget it, I don’t need an ET just to ease my workload.

I will be talking about these issues on David’s Zoom session on Friday.

I end the email with this:

And Now For Something Completely Different clip

Just those words, spoken by Our Lord and Comedic Savior, John Cleese

All of this is by way of sharing what it means to teach in the Plague Time.  It is Monty Python writ large, all crazy all the time with every blindspot exposed to the learners.  Get over it.


  1. // Reply

    Your post shows that there a many uncertainties and that everyone will need to adapt to the changing conditions. Good luck with that!

    This week in the Chicago Hack Night remote a group from Lyric Opera of Chicago talked about how they moved on-line this spring. One thing they emphasized was that they had social workers on their team, who contacted students in between weekly sessions to see how they were doing and to help with problems they may be having. It seems to me that your ETs, or others, could take this social worker role.

    Here’s the video of the presentation. Lyric Opera starts at about the 9 minute mark.

  2. // Reply

    Master comment, Dan. Helpful, evocative, and showing the real power of reciprocation and honoring the work of others. Grateful. Checking out the vid even now.

  3. // Reply

    “… be prepared for a messy, adaptive system of kludges and workarounds.”
    That about says it all.

  4. // Reply

    I think the word ’emergence’ always comes to mind with complex, evolving systems. I think a deep dive into practice of messiness (real as opposed to abstraction) and the practice of real kludges and workarounds. Started reading Adrienne Maree Brown’s “Emergent Strategy”. Has a lot of potential practice there. Summer read for August in CLMOOC? I can send you a preview link if you want to look at it.

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