No Time for Crickets, NDEC Conference is Here

Phip Ross

It’s been crickets in the blog here and the season for crickets and critters trying to get inside is upon us as the season cools. We are too busy to chase crickets.

As I sit in my chair within earshot of my granddaughter playing in the backyard with neighbor girls, I am reflecting on the start of this new school year and reach for the laptop and put off the snooze.

I’m remembering over a week ago, when the admin assistant looked up at me as I passed her desk and half-shouted, her eyes ablaze: “You instructors do not know how to read!” I froze in my tracks and stared into her unblinking eyes. I must’ve finally moved and made it safely to my desk.

Yes, I was one of those who didn’t do the “no-show” report precisely how it was instructed, just how I’ve done it for nearly 20 years. I felt good I’d done it on time though. I mean, do I need to excel at everything? (Note: I understand her frustration.)

This week I was pretty tickled with how I was annotating student writing within the document viewer in Canvas and believing in the feedback I was providing. Then, the next document came up and I couldn’t annotate it. To our instructional design team I sent two screen shots with the comparison—one image showing annotations, the other not viewable. Both were Word files. I was hopeful I would not get the “go read about how to do this here (link)” response that I recall getting in previous responses. I had already done some research on the topic with no luck.

I got the “go read” response and quickly harangued a fierce email about how that “help” is not help. Pounding those keys I was working up a sweat.  Then I revised it, softened it, and put it aside. Later, I saved it in drafts where it will die. I have 64 drafts saved in that folder.

These two events surface around many themes, such as focus and attention to detail, of course, but it’s also about where I put my energy, a finite resource in a day. The college’s professional development, all of the technical skills wrapped up in teaching face-to-face in a pandemic time with the cleaning, seating charts, and Zooming, and other areas of responsibilities most of us share in teaching in our community colleges, any seven of them. The main focus is supporting my own students and our faculty and tutors to that end. What’s on the periphery is a blurry fuzzpot. Whatever you can imagine that looking like.

This responsibility to my students involves committing to colleagues in pursuit of the same ends, colleagues who can help me and those who I can also help, at least sometimes. With the NDEC virtual conference Sept. 25 and webinar series coming up, that’s part of where my energy is centered. So I’m in no hurry to be chasing crickets now, and I hope my NDEC colleagues are in a similar frame of mind.

An English teacher at Southeast Community College, Phip Ross is a teacher, writer, activist, and musician. To contact Phip, please email