Friday, January 9, 2004

Emergency Management | When Uneasiness Visits

While I was catching up on reading and responding to student introductions in my online section of HU211 (Intro to Humanities) thisA sign: this guest has been frequenting our back porch since late December.  morning, our guest visited the back porch and set out with his ritual morning mewl. Through the crying, which, without any change in pitch or volume, seemed to escalate into a blaring feline yawp over time, I read about one student who is mid-way through his USMC career and just two courses from a BA in Emergency Management. His introduction (a brief, paragraph-or-so sketch) was comparatively candid when read alongside those of peers. He mentioned living in an inherited house in a sluggish Pennsylvania town, while waiting for FEMA to start hiring again.

When teaching online courses, I find that early term interactions significantly condition the level of engagement throughout the accelerated eight week term. No surprising discovery here. I've been at it for two years now, experimenting with my role in these courses, and when I jump in early with frequent and substantive posts--as instructor--the course reflects the stimulus and the threaded discussions are considerably more vibrant. In comparable f2f courses, I have found the class benefits from a solid starts, but it's possible for the course take off even if I moderate my presence, my role as "teacher," into something less visible, less assertively authoritative. This has me thinking about the relation of physicality and body language to teaching presence in f2f courses and how those issues compare for online courses (where the teaching is variously present through photos, biographical blurbs, threaded interactions, and rigid curricular content). In other words, where is the teacher's "body" in online education; is it an imagined corpus extending from the factors listed here? Stamped by the discipline or the institution?

I responded to the student with a few details about my pre-academic professional life, brief as it was. (Hell, my work isn't neatly academic now, either.) I told him about intervening with crises as an independent claims handler in Saginaw and Detroit, about the need to hire security to protect burnt property in Detroit until the site could be evaluated, damage assessed, splash digs concluded to rule out arson. No security could mean a second wave of damage: copper pipes, siding, plumbing fixtures all gone. What good are they in a burnt building, after all?

It's good news that FEMA's not hiring, I told the student, noting that it is bittersweet that national crises are well in hand. Ahem. Or maybe it's just that current national crises can't be helped by kind of assistance FEMA provides. In my own back yard, literally, the crisis is the regular screeching visitor. Feed it? Invite it inside? Dot has already given the collar-less, claw-wielding cat a name: Pepe. Cute. And she's fed it tuna fish. Phillip, our son, helped. But they're both allergic to cat dander, and our aging Yorky can't bear the stress, and I'm superstitious about keeping it, feeding it, looking at it, heck, even knowing it's around. But is it worse to get rid of a black cat? I don't even want to tamper with it. Throwing cold water at it crossed my mind; that's what my folks always did to send strays on the way. But it's below freezing; we don't want a frozen cat on our porch. Tried calling Wayside Waifs and the vet to learn about alternatives. The whole thing has me feeling uneasy. Should return to course prep--bury myself in work--to avoid the issue altogether, except for its chilling dirge.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at January 9, 2004 10:20 AM to Slouching Toward