Remote Learning Chaos


How are things in your community? My sisters, living in Chicago, are experiencing a winter storm during this week of Valentines and Black history. While it is warm here, it is difficult to express love during the struggle of online learning.


The coronavirus and school closures are in full swing here in the Caribbean. Full swing means we are under new restrictions to limit the COVID curve, including a 6 PM curfew and mandatory remote learning for all schools.


Teaching online is not easy. It takes more prep time and the ability to manipulate technology to increase your students' chances of meeting the learning objectives.

I know that I make substantial contributions at my job and home, but I also encounter challenges as a university professor and family man. Please keep reading and learn about my embarrassing first day of live lecture and parenting challenges with virtual learning.


Last week, I appeared on the school calendar to provide a talk for semester one medical students about active reading strategies. I arrived at the classroom forty minutes before the lecture's start time to log onto the computers and make other arrangements to minimize technical glitches during the session. Ten minutes before the classroom's live stream camera automatically turned on to project the stage where I stood, I took a picture in recognition of the awkward moment. – See the header picture of this post


Standing on a raised platform and pretending to talk to a lecture hall full of students is weird.


You must always remind yourself to look into the ceiling where the camera is located and not at the empty rows of seats. It is also essential to remain mindful of the chat window for questions and comments.

At the precise time of my first class’s scheduled time to begin, 11:10 AM, the camera powered on, and the podium appeared online. I was ready, or so I thought. There was a problem. The technology was working but in a different classroom!


I opened my email and read that I made a mistake. One of my email exchanges with the System Coordinator indicated the lecture hall I was standing in to present the content. However, the last email notified me of the classroom change, and I overlooked that detail.


Imagine that!


There I stood prepared to lecture about active reading strategies, and I did not do a good job of reading my email to verify the classroom’s location. #embarassing


I sent the students a message in the chat window to hold on for five minutes and quickly grabbed my things to run upstairs to the correct room. Once I arrived and booted the computer, we began six minutes behind schedule. I went through the content and provided an interactive dynamic lecture that involved conversations in the chat window and independent work.


Was it a happy ending? ...


The stream cameras run on an automatic schedule, and as soon as the allotted time expires, the feed stops. While I finished most of the active reading lecture content live, I did not get to my last slides, and I felt rushed in other parts of my talk.


To redeem the late start and provide a better explanation of the topic, I went to my office and recorded the remaining slides. The following day, I emailed students a link to access the full lecture that I edited to include the content recorded in my office and the classroom. It all worked out in the end, but it was a rough start to the semester's live lectures.


Let this story serve as a reminder to double-check your email! There may be last-minute changes to your classroom assignments or details missed in correspondences. In a virtual learning environment, email messages, chat window exchanges, and text messages communicate vital class-related info.

How are things at home with you? Are you finding that the tricks you use to stay on top of your work are transferrable to your house?


Some days are better than others, but my house has not had a smooth transition to remote learning. Since we moved to Antigua in 2018, my children have attended a local private school. Their school adopted a hybrid model of instruction in response to COVID.


Before the recent lockdown, my children had in-person classes Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM and occasionally online assignments to complete in the evenings. The spike in recent coronavirus cases put an end to our organized schedule that included established times for work, school, exercise, play, and business.


When my kids went to a physical school building, my wife used that time to work with her copywriting clients. She wrote sales pages, blog posts, and social media captions. With our three overly energetic children at home, that quiet time to concentrate on creative writing during the day vanishes!


You know, managing a business while also attempting to educate three children at three different grade levels is no joke! It’s a lot for one person to handle by themselves. I know that my ancestors have accomplished more in the fight for education and economic freedom, but this is tough.


It takes time and experiencing plenty of frustration along the way to create the structure supportive of work and school integration. We must remain patient throughout this process.

I adjusted my office schedule to stay at home more, but that does not fix everything. The children have multiple Zoom meetings throughout the day. Assignments get frequently posted through the Google Classroom platform. Internet connections are unstable, which often causes dropped calls and lapses in homework posts.


While working from home and helping with my children’s school, I have to juggle advising appointments with students, responding to my colleagues' emails, and tending to other university responsibilities. Work hours often get extended.


In addition to these challenges with remote learning this week, I finalized my third book's arrangements. I am driven by internalized feelings of accomplishment.


On Wednesday, Dear Brother: 82 Powerful Poems to Guide Your Journey to Healthy Black Masculinity became available for Pre-Order on the Kindle store. My latest book shares 75 poems and 7 poetic letters that chronicle my transition into manhood.


"Dear Brother" is a must-read for men of color. It is my most vulnerable piece to date because it includes poetry that I wrote at age seventeen and revisited at thirty-eight. I kept many of the poems in their original form and introduced each chapter with a letter that offers sound advice to encourage positive self-awareness.

To increases the chances of impact, I went back and forth a couple of times this week with my editor and graphic designer to ensure the quality of the print and digital versions of the text. I believe we did a good job, and I am happy with the results. You be the judge and pre-order your copy today!


If you decide to pre-order the book, please leave me a review on the book's release date, March 1, 2021, at Amazon or Goodreads.


Your honest opinions can help the right readers find my books. If you love the book, great! It's also just as important to receive reviews from people who do not like the content. Praising and critical feedback will increase my books' chances of reaching my ideal reader and help me improve as a writer.


So, look out for a brother, pre-order, Dear Brother: 82 Powerful Poems to Guide Your Journey to Healthy Black Masculinity today! We, parents and educators, must support each other during this pandemic as we do our best to make progress on our dreams while also managing teaching and family responsibilities. I will finish this post as I end each of the heartfelt open letters in my latest book.


With much respect, love, and solidarity,


Vernon

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