Real Life Of Someone Who Had To Online Learning

People who do online learning don’t go just to study. They make a long term lifestyle commitment to it.

I’m not entirely sure I’d call myself an overachiever. I have a B average in economics and this first year of my PhD program, I worked as a videographer at local college sports games for a few months, then took a break and went on a wild food-banter adventure to some bit parts, such as Airbnb. But in an ideal world, I’d finish my life at a university in the arts. In this world, I’m a pedagogical-instructor at online community college Walden University.

I grew up in college. My father was at Radcliffe for his undergrad, my mom at Fairfield for hers, and I went to Wittenberg University in Ohio. I’ve always felt very comfortable in large groups of people, for four years of college, that is, until I made the classic, “well, no one’s really paying attention anyway,” freshman year move-in. During my freshman year, I hung out with some people I’d never met before, fell in love, got in the middle of a Munchausen’s disease tragedy. Well, that first semester. It was some of the worst years of my life. Which is also kind of weird, because in college I didn’t really have any existential crises. I lived well and was always on top of what I was supposed to be doing—well, mostly in a big group setting and all anyway, by the time I graduated in 2007, I thought I was pretty confident about just about everything, so I went to law school.

My second year, I had a terrible break-up, which, thank God, pretty much saved me from just being a break-up-kinda-person. I stopped drinking. I cleaned up my drinking habits. I saved my best friends (the really great people who you make your friends, not your boyfriends). I went on more singles nights than I’d ever had in my life. I thought it was great. So I attended law school, went through a backpacking trip around Latin America that turned into 20 hours of nothing, lost my job, and finally went to grad school. Mostly, I had a fun summer in Iceland.

I started teaching in my third year, and have been there since. I’m pretty sure that I’m completely breaking all my social science and critical theory students’ hearts. There’s something about grading papers and reviewing coursework that keeps things more interesting for me. Like a cartoonist turning lines in her paintbrush, grading is a process of experimentation. I can’t control the grades, and that’s part of the fun. But I still always look at every grade, and almost every time I see the upper-division review, or in between classes, I ask myself—did I do something to ruin the likelihood of getting an A? Because that’s what social science and critical theory is: trying to overcome the human tendency to see the flaw in something. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. I’ve always tried to understand why things are what they are, even if it’s not easy to make the shift.

But teaching at online community college, which consists largely of people who live a half-hour away from campus, while working in a country where you’ve developed a deep hatred for cable news, is a different kind of challenge. I’m more about feelings and intuitions than teaching students to write down equations, but there is a lot of teaching to be done, and the role of teacher is more me at this point than what it was at my old law school. Sometimes, though, I have to step back and look at the logic of the way I’m teaching, whether I like it or not. It is a great responsibility to teach these students, even if most of them’ll never make it to a specialized and expensive university program.

Above and beyond the loving-but-not-overly-involved mentorship and drilling of a well-formed psychology PhD, online community college requires a lot of bottom-up learning. This experience, in which I speak to hundreds of new students a week, is both the reason I get my work done every day and the reason I leave exhausted and miserable. It is, at its worst, an inspiring example of how to fix an impossible problem, but it is also unfulfilling, tough and made up of almost needless torment, as if we’re trying to make progress with rex.

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