Tuesday, May 26, 2020

In the Eleventh Week of the Quarantine

Something so unreal about these weeks for me.  I am wondering if this is how it feels to be a cloistered nun.



I seem to be living for my garden.  Each day the plants grow and new ones begin to bloom. We've had unseasonably cold months of April and most of May, but now the mists have lifted.

I am not yet eighty, but I do love this quote by Henry Mitchell:


"By the time one is eighty, it is said, there is no longer a tug of war in the garden with the May flowers hauling like mad against the claims of the other months.  All is at last in balance and all is serene.  The gardener is usually dead, of course."
-  Henry Mitchell, The Essential Earthman 








and this poem by Philip Larkin:



"The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh."
-  Philip Larkin, The Trees





always something pagan about May as well:

"There is some speculation that Beltane and May Day is related to the ancient Roman festival of Floralia. According to the about.com article, this was "a six-day party in honor of Flora, the goddess of Spring and Flowers, the Floralia was a time of singing, dancing and feasting in the ancient capital." Dressed in bright colors in imitation of spring flowers, citizens would decorate the entire city with fresh blooms. "Hares and goats, symbols of fertility, would be let loose in gardens as protectors of Flora, and great singing and stomping would be heard in order to wake up Spring." Of course, dancing is a large part of May Day celebrations as well. Apparently, Flora was also the patron of prostitutes, and during this festival the Roman "working girls" participated enthusiastically, performing naked in theatres and taking part in gladiatorial events. The themes of fertility and sexuality are obviously still very much associated with Beltane and May Day amongst modern pagans... but let's look more closely at the ancient history of Beltane in the British Isles.  First of all, the origin of the name "Beltane" is disputed. The holiday was also known as "Roodmass" in England and "Walpurgisnacht" in Germany. Alternately spelled Bealtaine, Beltaine, and any number of Gaelic derived-spellings, it is also the Irish word for the month of May, and is said to mean anything from "Bel-fire" Feast of the god Bel" to "bright fire." Janet and Stewart Farrar, in Eight Sabbats for Witches offer an excellent tracing of the holiday's Irish roots, and particularly the European fire-god Belenus whom they believe this festival is named for (a name possible traced back to Baal, the bible's only pagan god, whose name simply means "Lord"). Ronald Hutton states that since the Celtic word "bel" means bright or fortunate, this is adequate to explain the translation as being "lucky fire" or "bright fire."
-  Peg Aloi, 
You Call It May Day, We Call It Beltane 







Sunday, May 3, 2020

May, in the 8th week of Quarantine

Still, I rejoice in the Spring. Photos of the emerging garden, and garden quotes today:


 foxglove emerging



 creeping phlox






"The world's favorite season is the spring.
All things seem possible in May."
-  Edwin Way Teale







"May and June.  Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights.  The discussion of philosophy is over; it's time for work to begin." 
-  Peter Loewer  




Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The garden keeps me looking forward


and a poem or two, or a quote or two:


It's like this today in Emmitsburg.  48 degrees and sunny but blustery. Normal temp is 65.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."
-  Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926 



and this, from Robert Louis Stevenson:

"Flower god, god of the spring, beautiful, bountiful,
Cold-dyed shield in the sky, lover of versicles,
Here I wander in April
Cold, grey-headed; and still to my
Heart, Spring comes with a bound, Spring the deliverer,
Spring, song-leader in woods, chorally resonant;
Spring, flower-planter in meadows,
Child-conductor in willowy
Fields deep dotted with bloom, daisies and crocuses:
Here that child from his heart drinks of eternity:
O child, happy are children!
She still smiles on their innocence,
She, dear mother in God, fostering violets,
Fills earth full of her scents, voices and violins:
Thus one cunning in music
Wakes old chords in the memory:
Thus fair earth in the Spring leads her performances.
One more touch of the bow, smell of the virginal
Green - one more, and my bosom
Feels new life with an ecstasy."



-  Robert Louis Stevenson, Flower God, God of the Spring







It is waking up before you


I'm not even sure when I wrote this draft, but am publishing it today.


This poem speaks to me today, even though this illness has nothing to do with Covid19:


“Myxomatosis” by Philip Larkin


Caught in the center of a soundless field
While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
I make a sharp reply,
Then clean my stick. I’m glad I can’t explain
Just in what jaws you were to suppurate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.

(a highly infectious and usually fatal viral disease of rabbits, causing swelling of the mucous membranes and inflammation and discharge around the eyes.)


and this song:

IT'S A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING
With his back against the San Francisco traffic,
On the bridges side that faces towards the jail,
Setting out to join a demographic,
He hoists his first leg up over the rail.
And a phone call is made,
Police cars show up quickly.
The sergeant slams his passenger door.
He says, "Hey son why don't you talk through this with me,
Just tell me what you're doing it for."

"Oh, it's a little bit of everything,
It's the mountains,
It's the fog,
It's the news at six o'clock,
It's the death of my first dog,
It's the angels up above me,
It's the song that they don't sing,
It's a little bit of everything."

An older man stands in a buffet line,
He is smiling and holding out his plate,
And the further he looks back into his timeline,
That hard road always had led him to today,
And making up for when his bright future had left him,
Making up for the fact that his only son is gone,
And letting everything out once, His server asks him,
Have you figured out yet, what it is you want?
I want a little bit of everything,
The biscuits and the beans,
Whatever helps me to forget about
The things that brought me to my knees,
So pile on those mashed potatoes,
And an extra chicken wing,
I'm having a little bit of everything.

Somewhere a pretty girl is writing invitations,
To a wedding she has scheduled for the fall,
Her man says, "Baby, can I make an observation?
You don't seem to be having any fun at all."
She said, "You just worry about your groomsmen and your shirt-size,
And rest assured that this is making me feel good,
I think that love is so much easier than you realize,
If you can give yourself to someone,
Then you should.
Cause it's a little bit of everything,

The way you choke, the way you ache,
It is waking up before you,
So I can watch you as you wake.
So in the day in late September,
It's not some stupid little ring,
I'm giving a little bit of everything.”

Oh, it's a little bit of everything,
It's the matador and the bull,
It's the suggested daily dosage,
It is the red moon when it's full.
All these psychics and these doctors,
They're all right and they're all wrong,
It's like trying to make out every word,
When they should simply hum along,
It's not some message written in the dark,
Or some truth that no one's seen,
It's a little bit of everything.

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Taylor Goldsmith



Monday, April 20, 2020

In the Sixth Week of Quarantine

Lizzie Riches,  The Gardener's Assistant





"When the April wind wakes the call for the soil, I hold the plough as my only hold upon the earth, and, as I follow through the fresh and fragrant furrow, I am planted with every foot-step, growing, budding, blooming into a spirit of spring."
-  Dallas Lore Sharp, 1870-1929 




Haven't written for a while; I've been sinking into depression.  Napping, eating out of boredom,
watching "Midsomer Murders"  and yearning to get out into the garden.

Finally the temperatures reached 60 degrees and the sun emerged yesterday, so I planted the 10 Dahlia tubers and the 6 Tuberose bulbs and the 1 Blue Hill Meadow Sage plant that I had ordered months ago. 

I don't know what will happen to our country.  Cannot stand the sight of Donald Trump.

It's National Poetry Month, and I haven't even attempted to write a poem.  I don't seem to have anything to say.

Here's a poem, though, from Edna St. Vincent Millay:



"To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?"


-  Edna St. Vincent Millay, Spring





Felix Casorati,    The Dream



Saturday, April 11, 2020

I specify you with joy

Holy Saturday      April 11,2020

Art by Daniel Bonnell


To Him that was Crucified
My spirit to yours, dear brother;
Do not mind because many, sounding your name, do not understand you;
I do not sound your name, but I understand you, (there are others also;)
I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you, and to salute those who are with you, before and since—and those to come also,
That we all labor together, transmitting the same charge and succession; 
We few, equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times;
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes—allowers of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the disputers, nor any thing that is asserted;
We hear the bawling and din—we are reach’d at by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every side, 
They close peremptorily upon us, to surround us, my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and down, till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races, ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers, as we are.


—Walt Whitman





Hello in there



John Prine died last night of Covid 19 . He was 73.


I regret not knowing of his songs until recently.  The lyrics to this one make me cry.


"Hello In There"

We had an apartment in the city,
Me and Loretta liked living there.
Well, it'd been years since the kids had grown,
A life of their own left us alone.
John and Linda live in Omaha,
And Joe is somewhere on the road.
We lost Davy in the Korean war,
And I still don't know what for, don't matter anymore.

[Chorus:]
Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day.
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, "Hello in there, hello."

Me and Loretta, we don't talk much more,
She sits and stares through the back door screen.
And all the news just repeats itself
Like some forgotten dream that we've both seen.
Someday I'll go and call up Rudy,
We worked together at the factory.
But what could I say if asks "What's new?"
"Nothing, what's with you? Nothing much to do."

[Chorus]

So if you're walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."







Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday, Riding Westward






John Donne (1572-1631)
Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
Let man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees God's face, that is self-life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our souls, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They're present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and Thou look'st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.
I turn my back to Thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.



Thursday, April 2, 2020

The sad is so big I can't get it all out


This is a magnificent poem  


Oh Wonder     by Traci Brimhall




It’s the garden spider who eats her mistakes
at the end of day so she can billow in the lung
of night, dangling from an insecure branch
or caught on the coral spur of a dove’s foot
and sleep, her spinnerets trailing radials like
ungathered hair. It’s a million-pound cumulus.
It’s the stratosphere, holding it, miraculous. It’s
a mammatus rolling her weight through dusk
waiting to unhook and shake free the hail.
Sometimes it’s so ordinary it escapes your notice—
pothos reaching for windows, ease of an avocado
slipping its skin. A porcelain boy with lamp-black
eyes told me most mammals have the same average
number of heartbeats in a lifetime. It is the mouse
engine that hums too hot to last. It is the blue whale’s
slow electricity—six pumps per minute is the way
to live centuries. I think it’s also the hummingbird
I saw in a video, lifted off a cement floor by firefighters
and fed sugar water until she was again a tempest.
It wasn’t when my mother lay on the garage floor
and my brother lifted her while I tried to shout louder
than her sobs. But it was her heart, a washable ink.
It was her dark’s genius, how it moaned slow enough
to outlive her. It is the orca who pushes her dead calf
a thousand miles before she drops it or it falls apart.
And it is also when she plays with her pod the day
after. It is the night my son tugs at his pajama
collar and cries: The sad is so big I can’t get it all out,
and I behold him, astonished, his sadness as clean
and abundant as spring. His thunder-heart, a marvel
I refuse to invade with empathy. And outside, clouds
groan like gods, a garden spider consumes her home.
It’s knowing she can weave it tomorrow between
citrus leaves and earth. It’s her chamberless heart
cleaving the length of her body. It is lifting my son
into my lap to witness the birth of his grieving.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Because I live where I live

I'm standing, far right.

I live in this large complex:


in one room on one floor of one wing

Our retired sisters live in this building, in another area.  Of all the sisters in this building , I am about the fourth youngest, and the three younger than me are about the same age.

So, death visits our house several times a year.   But last evening , we had two in a row.  One sailed off on the Sea of Faith at 10PM, and the other, about 4AM.  Neither of them from Covid19.
Blessedly, that has not reached our house yet.

But these deaths do give me pause, even as Spring arrives.

here's a poem from Wang Wei:


"O Day after day we can't help growing older.
Year after year spring can't help seeming younger.
Come let's enjoy our winecup today,
Nor pity the flowers fallen."


-  Wang Wei, On Parting with Spring  



Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Quarantine continues

It certainly is



I've been counting my 15 day quarantine in 3 ways:

  1. from the last day of in-person classes ( March 11) and a shopping trip to Wegmans in Frederick ( March 12).   That one ended March 26.
  2. I broke that one with an all-day training session on using Canvas ( our computer program) at the Mount, plus grocery shopping at Weis, on March 14. That one ended on March 29.
  3. I broke that one with a trip to the Motor Vehicle Administration offices in Westminster, and grocery shopping, on March 19.  That one will end on April 3.
So far, so good.  If I'm carrying the virus, there have been no signs. I haven't been sick. Yet.  I'm trying to be careful because I live in a big house where about 50 elderly sisters live.  So far, none of them has been sick.  I am certainly not the only one coming and going; we have all the nursing aides and housekeeping and kitchen staff, not to mention the twelve or so other sisters like me.  So we will see.

I have an appointment with the eye doctor in Frederick on April 1, and I hope it is not cancelled.  I need that doctor to sign the paper that says I can drive a car without a problem. My current license expires on April 27.  

These are miniscule concerns compared to the catastrophes happening all over the country and the world.

But Spring is a consolation.


and now I find out that the Governor of Maryland has given an extension for applications for all things motor vehicle related:  30 days after the end of the shutdown period, whenever that it.


So it goes.



may we be kept patient by the Keeper of Spring  ( art by Lucia Ferrara)



Sluggish Dazed Spring Approaches

Early Spring    by Julian Underdonk



Here's a powerful and appropriate poem by William Carlos Williams:


Spring and All (I)


By William Carlos Williams


By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines-
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-
They enter the new world naked
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-
Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken






I love this picture  by Sibylle von Offers.   Translation of the verse:


And as spring comes into the country
there pulls a colorful ribbon,
the beetles, flowers,
small grasses,
rejoicing into the world

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Pachamama



The greening of the lawns, which I can see from my bedroom window, as well as the Spring Equinox, make me think of all the artistic renderings of Mother Earth.
Today I am especially reflecting on Pachamama.  I didn’t even know of her existence until Jennifer Heath, in her wonderful book The Echoing Green: The Garden in Myth and Memory,  spoke of her.

art by TeklaU


from The Goddess Garden website:
Pachamama is a fertility goddess, originating from the ancient Inca, the indigenous people who inhabited the Andes mountains. In the indigenous Quechua language, Pachamama (also known as Mama Pacha) translates as Mother Earth or Mother Cosmos. In other cultures, she is referred to as Gaia and Mother Earth. She oversees life by nourishing and protecting it’s inhabitants, her children. She is still an important aspect of religion in Peru today. Andean people believe strongly in the importance of living in harmony with nature and not taking too much from her. When she is disrespected, it is believed that problems will arise, such as earthquakes.
To ensure Pachamama looked favorably upon them, the Inca people made regular offerings to her. This is known as pago a la tierra (payment to the earth). These ceremonies are still performed today, and consist of offerings of traditional items such as coca leaves, huayruro seeds, and chicha (a corn beer). Shrines for Pachamama are made from hallowed rocks, or the trunks of significant trees. Artists depict her as an adult female bearing harvests of potatoes and coca leaves.


art by Arianna Ruffinengo


Saturday, March 28, 2020

On a Rainy Spring Saturday








Here's a poem by Pablo Neruda that speaks to me today:





Keeping Quiet — by Pablo Neruda


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
.
(Translation by Alistair Reed)


 In Bloom      art by Gina Litherland



Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Grand Go the Years






Safe in their Alabaster Chambers
By Emily Dickinson

Safe in their Alabaster Chambers -
Untouched by Morning -
And untouched by Noon -
Lie the meek members of the Resurrection -
Rafter of Satin - and Roof of Stone -
Grand go the Years - in the Crescent - above them -
Worlds scoop their Arcs -
And Firmaments - row -
Diadems - drop - and Doges- surrender -
Soundless as dots - on a Disk of Snow -




I can't help but wonder how this is all going to turn out... for me.  And for the rest of the country.  And the rest of the world.  

I wonder what the people thought during the Bubonic Plague.



Saturday, March 21, 2020

Remote for the semester



We had a message from the University President yesterday that classes from now until the end of the semester will be held remotely.  We began doing this March 11, but now it will go through May.

I've been revamping my syllabus accordingly, and my students are responding, how shall I say - responsibly.

It feels like the Twilight Zone.  I do the grocery shopping for our group, and I am trying to avoid going out again to shop until the end of the month.  I don't have any idea if I have been exposed to the virus; no one really does.  But with all of these frail elderly sisters in our large complex here, I'm intensely aware of not endangering them.

My poet friends are posting very evocative poems these days on Facebook. 

Here 's one by Philip Larkin

Coming

By Philip Larkin

On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
Laurel-surrounded
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon --
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.




Wednesday, March 18, 2020

I should not be reading THE STAND at this time



but I am... actually, I am listening to the audiobook, which makes it worse.



That is fiction.  This is reality, about Covid 19, which we have barely begun to experience.


From fellow poet Julie Kane, on her Facebook page:


FYI: What it takes to get COVID-tested in rural Louisiana. I have been sick for 9 days now, since 

returning home from AWP: first a fever, aches and pains, and upset stomach; then a cough, intermittent 

low fever, congestion, headache, laryngitis (3 straight days now of no voice whatsoever). The local 

Access2 urgent care center has been allocated ONE (1) COVID test kit. For its entire patient population. I 
met the initial criteria for testing (fever, cough, at-risk age group, 
 traveled through an international airport 

recently). Then I had to take 2 blood tests and get a chest X ray. The first blood test (for bacterial 

infection) had to be normal or elevated: mine normal. The second blood test (for inflammation) had to be 

elevated: mine elevated. The chest X ray had to show infiltrates for pneumonia: mine showed mild 

COPD but not infiltrates. The nurse faxed all my materials to her supervisor. She wanted to test me. 

Permission to test was denied. (It really makes no difference, as the outcome would be the same either 

way: stay home unless shortness of breath develops. And at least I found out that the laryngitis is not 

bacterial and so cannot be treated with antiobiotics. But do not trust the statistics on # of cases in the 

U.S., because it is damned near impossible to get tested.)


and a poem from Weldon Kees


The Coming on the Plague
By Weldon Kees

September was when it began.
Locusts dying in the fields; our dogs
Silent, moving like shadows on a wall;
And strange worms crawling; flies of a kind
We had never seen before; huge vineyard moths;
Badgers and snakes, abandoning
Their holes in the field; the fruit gone rotten;
Queer fungi sprouting; the fields and woods
Covered with spiderwebs; black vapors
Rising from the earth-- all these,
And more began that fall. Ravens flew round
The hospital in pairs. Where there was water,
We could hear the sound of beating clothes
All through the night. We could not count
All the miscarriages, the quarrels, the jealousies.
And one day in a field I saw
A swarm of frogs, swollen and hideous,
Hundreds upon hundreds, sitting on each other,
Huddled together, silent, ominous,
And heard the sound of rushing wind.



Friday, March 13, 2020

putting one's classes online




Our in-person classes have been suspended until at least March 30. We share this situation with most other colleges in the country.

Our university uses a program called Canvas, which is very good.  I use it with my class to some degree, probably at the most basic levels of use.  I'm not sure about how much more sophisticated I am able to get .

Here is an interesting blog entry from Rebecca Barrett-Fox on this topic:

Please do a bad job of putting your courses online


I’m absolutely serious.
For my colleagues who are now being instructed to put some or all of the remainder of their semester online, now is a time to do a poor job of it. You are NOT building an online class. You are NOT teaching students who can be expected to be ready to learn online. And, most importantly, your class is NOT the highest priority of their OR your life right now. Release yourself from high expectations right now, because that’s the best way to help your students learn.
If you are getting sucked into the pedagogy of online learning or just now discovering that there are some pretty awesome tools out there to support student online, stop. Stop now. Ask yourself: Do I really care about this? (Probably not, or else you would have explored it earlier.) Or am I trying to prove that I’m a team player? (You are, and don’t let your university exploit that.) Or I am trying to soothe myself in the face of a pandemic by doing something that makes life feel normal? (If you are, stop and instead put your energy to better use, like by protesting in favor of eviction freezes or packing up sacks of groceries for kids who won’t get meals because public schools are closing.)
Remember the following as you move online:
  1. Your students know less about technology than you think. Many of them know less than you. Yes, even if they are digital natives and younger than you.
  2. They will be accessing the internet on their phones. They have limited data. They need to reserve it for things more important than online lectures.
  3. Students who did not sign up for an online course have no obligation to have a computer, high speed wifi, a printer/scanner, or a camera. Do not even survey them to ask if they have it. Even if they do, they are not required to tell you this. And if they do now, that doesn’t mean that they will when something breaks and they can’t afford to fix it because they just lost their job at the ski resort or off-campus bookstore.
  4. Students will be sharing their technology with other household members. They may have LESS time to do their schoolwork, not more.
  5. Many will be working MORE, not fewer, hours. Nurses, prison guards, firefighters, and police officers have to go to work no matter what. As healthcare demand increases but healthcare workers get sick, there will be more and  more stress on those who remain.
  6. Some of your students will get sick. Others will be caring for people who are ill.
  7. Many will be parenting.
  8. Social isolation contributes to mental health problems.
  9. Social isolation contributes to domestic violence.
  10. Students will be losing their jobs, especially those in tourism and hospitality.
All of these factors mean that your students are facing more important battles today than your class–if they are even able to access it.

As you put your class online:
1. Put your energy into the classes that are required for your major or minor or that are required by other majors or minors. Electives and GE classes are an important part of a good education, but we have already decided that what students learn in any one of those courses is not vital. (The exceptions to this are GE courses that are required for a major.) For some of us, this is every class we teach, but for others, we have the ability to choose to focus our attention.
2. Do not require synchronous work. Students should not need to show up at a specific time for anything. REFUSE to do any synchronous work.
3. Do not record lectures unless you need to. (This is fundamentally different from designing an online course, where recorded information is, I think, really important.) They will be a low priority for students, and they take up a lot of resources on your end and on theirs. You have already built a rapport with them, and they don’t need to hear your voice to remember that.
4. Do record lectures if you need to. When information cannot be learned otherwise, include a lecture. Your university already some kind of tech to record lectures. DO NOT simply record in PowerPoint as the audio quality is low. While many people recommend lectures of only 5 minutes, I find that my students really do listen to longer lectures. Still, remember that your students will be frequently interrupted in their listening, so a good rule is 1 concept per lecture. So, rather than a lecture on ALL of, say, gender inequality in your Intro to Soc course, deliver 5 minutes on pay inequity (or 15 minutes or 20 minutes, if that’s what you need) and then a separate lecture on #MeToo and yet another on domestic violence. Closed caption them using the video recording software your university provides. Note that YouTube also generates closed captions [edited to add: they are not ADA compliant, though]. If you don’t have to include images, skip the video recording and do a podcast instead.
5. Don’t fuss too much about the videos. You don’t need to edit out the “umms” or the postal carrier ringing the doorbell. Editing is a waste of your time right now.
6. Make all work due on the same day and time for the rest of the semester. I recommend Sunday night at 11:59 pm. Students who are now stay-at-home parents will need help from others to get everything done, and that help is more likely to arrive on a weekend. While, in general, I dislike 11:59 due dates because work done that late is typically of lower quality, some people will need to work after the kids go to bed, so setting the deadline at 9 or 10 pm just doesn’t give them enough time.
7. If you use a textbook, your publisher probably has tests that you can download directly into your learning management system (LMS). Now is the time to use them. Despite publishers’ best efforts, these tests quickly float around online, so take a few minutes to add some anti-cheating protections. First, organize questions into test banks and have them fed to students at random. For example, if you want to ask two questions about pay inequity, select 5 of them from the test bank, and have your LMS feed two of them to students at random. This makes it MUCH harder for students to work together, because they will never get the same exact test as a peer. Second, change the wording on the questions so they can’t easily paste them into Google. In example questions, changing the name of the person in the example is one fast way to make the questions harder to locate online.
8. Allow every exam or quiz to be taken at least twice, and tell students that this means that if there is a tech problem on the first attempt, the second attempt is their chance to correct it. This will save you from the work of resetting tests or quizzes when the internet fails or some other tech problem happens. And since it can be very hard to discern when such failures are really failures or students trying to win a second attempt at a quiz or test, you avoid having to deal with cheaters.
9. Do NOT require students to use online proctoring or force them to have themselves recorded during exams or quizzes. This is a fundamental violation of their privacy, and they did NOT sign up for that when they enrolled in your course. Plus, they are in the privacy of their homes, sometimes with children who will interrupt them. It may be impossible for them to take a test without interruption. Circumvent the need for proctoring by making every exam open-notes, open-book, and open-internet. The best way to avoid them taking tests together or sharing answers is to use a large test bank.
10. You have already had some kind of in-class work, I’m guessing, so you do not need to further authenticate their identities on exams. If you are suspicious that a student is cheating–for example, someone was previously performing very poorly on in-class assessments and is now scoring very well, which might make you think that they’ve hired someone else to take the class for them–address that situation individually.
11. Remind them of due dates. It might feel like handholding, but be honest: Don’t you appreciate the text reminder from your dentist that you have an appointment tomorrow? Your LMS has an announcement system that allows you to write an announcement now and post it later. As you put your materials online, write an announcement reminding them of the due date to be released 24 hours before it is due. The morning of, send a note to everyone who has not yet turned it in. (In Canvas and Blackboard, you do this by going into your gradebook and right clicking on the header of the assignment. You’ll see an option to email all students who have not yet completed the work. It takes less than 1 minute if you are already logged in.)
12. Alert them to any material that is not appropriate for children to watch, including minute markers for scenes of violence or nudity. Again, you need to assume that they are doing their work with children in the background.
13. Make everything self-grading if you can (yes, multiple choice and T/F on quizzes and tests) or low-stakes (completed/not completed).
14. Don’t do too much. Right now, your students don’t need it. They need time to do the other things they need to do.
15. Listen for them asking for help. They may be anxious. They may be tired. Many students are returning to their parents’ home where they may not be welcome. Others will be at home with partners who are violent. School has been a safe place for them, and now it’s not available to them. Your class may matter to them a lot when they are able to focus on it, but it may not matter much now, in contrast to all the other things they have to deal with. Don’t let that hurt your feelings, and don’t hold it against them in future semesters or when they come back to ask for a letter of recommendation.
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This advice is very different from that which I would share if you were designing an online course. I hope it’s helpful, and for those of you moving your courses online, I hope it helps you understand the labor that is required in building an online course a bit better.

 I'm pasting this here because I found it so helpful; I can refer back to it myself this way.