The back to school bad dream . . . online

My three summer online courses open today, so sure enough, I had THE DREAM last night. I’ve talked to other teachers about this, and  many report that they too experience this particular nightmare every year, a day or so before school starts.

Somehow we show up in class without lesson plans, maybe without even knowing what classes we’re teaching. In one variant, which I’ve dreamed three or four times, I walk into the classroom and discover that I’ve been assigned  to teach chemistry – a subject that I last studied in 1971!

My recurring nightmare now has an online variation. Last night I dreamed that I forgot to enroll students electronically. Even after years of dreaming THE DREAM, I still logged on to my computer at 5:45 this morning to check. Turns out there were some computer issues – welcome to my world – but the students were, indeed, enrolled. Whew.

I’ll post from time to time this summer about my experiences teaching online. If last summer proves an accurate guide, I’ll witness both the advantages and disadvantages of teaching and learning remotely. I’m an advocate of expanding online education opportunities – but not an uncritical advocate. Since Utah offers high school students the opportunity to take up to two courses online every year, my experiences may be relevant to some of you.

If anyone’s interested in the online essay-writing course, by the way, we’re offering it to students outside Juan Diego. Here’s a link to a website that describes the course.

Feel free to email me if you’d like more information.

By the way, in the interests of full exposure, the woman in the painting (“The Nightmare” by Henry Fuseli, 1781) is a lot younger than I am!


  1. Coach P

    My own bad dream, or was it just a nightmare, was to be told a couple of days before school started I would be teaching a class on Western Europe studies. I had no curriculum really, other than the principal at the time heard I went to Europe on vacation once.

    I think many teachers have had similar experiences about being told they were teaching some class at the last second and I’ve had last minute changes to my teaching schedule but unlike the example of the last paragraph, at least I had taught the course in previous years and had lessons and materials to fall back on.

    Good luck with your on-line classes. I think on-line is a great alternative for many students but I don’t think it is for every student nor should it replace face-to-face teaching for most students. But I think it has its place and i’ve enjoyed my own on-line learning experiences.

    • Mary McConnell

      Thanks for the good wishes. I agree that online education isn’t for everyone, which is why I don’t like Idaho’s requirement that all students take an online course. Some students just aren’t going to be able to function in an environment where they don’t have constant, face to face interaction with students. On the other hand, some students thrive on electronic communication. Some of the best class discussions I’ve ever participated in have happened online . . . and I’ve found that students are actually more willing to start discussions online than they are sitting at their desks. Go figure.

      I sympathized with your story about teaching Western Civ (though AP European History was always my favorite course to teach). For what it’s worth, I got in to the teaching profession via a two-day lead time assignment. My older daughter was enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program at West High School, and was signed up to take IB history: a 20th century “capstone” history course for students who had already taken AP U.S. and European history. The teacher quit two days before school started, and I got a frantic call from the director of the IB program. She knew me from my involvement as a parent volunteer debate coach (and, let me admit, an occasional helicopter parent), and she recalled that I had done my graduate work in 20th century diplomatic history. Did I have any interest in coming in to teach this class every other morning at 7:30 a.m.?

      By the way, the school paid me janitorial wages, my M.Phil degree (it’s a British degree, between a masters and a Ph.D) notwithstanding. They did allow me to haul along my 6th grade son, whom I was still home schooling, and enroll him in Algebra 1. He loved it, by the way, and re-entered “real” school the following year.

      I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the course. One day that fall I came home and informed my startled husband that I’d decided I wanted to teach high school. After that it got complicated – no teaching certificate, etc. – but I ended up teaching at Juan Diego and earning alternative certification. I’ve never regretted the decision, low pay and long hours notwithstanding.

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