Thursday, August 13, 2020

The big news, of course, is the announcement of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s VP at the top of the Democratic ticket for November’s elections. Heard their first appearance yesterday afternoon, and was very impressed by their presentation. Especially impressed by Senator Harris, who’s a wonderful, passionate, focused speaker. I have no problem imagining her as President of the United States; she seems terrifically smart, very well-informed given her experiences as both Senator and as California AG. Can’t say i support every position she’s ever taken, but can’t say that about anyone else, living or dead. What is clear is that she has a history of making very difficult decisions, some unpopular, and that tells me she’s up to the job. Unquestionably far more up to the tasks than the present idiocy in the White House. Fully support Biden’s selection of Harris, and by the end of their presentation found myself imagining the sense of relief I hope we feel on November 4 (or whenever results become clear). Fingers crossed for another 83 days…

Very little to share visually these days, as most all time is spent in front of the computer with a view that’s basically this.

There are some diversions–getting out and mowing the lawn between raindrops is a very welcome one–but generally I’m just grateful for the little standing-desk thing that Joe got me a few years ago. The constant sitting just makes me feel so sluggish.

The teaching, albeit just a few days in, is going surprisingly well. The frosh class is moving along ok; our synchronous time actually seems ok. The two big things i’m missing are my own physical motion around a classroom (feeling a bit “caged” in the space near the webcam), and the students ready-engagement.

The latter there seems to be related to the fact that they need to take a positive action (unmute) to speak up, in contrast to what happens when simply speaking up. I may ask them to unmute from the get-go, but am not sure how that will work out as all are in their dorm-rooms, and in many cases i see their roommates in the background doing their own thing. Not sure about the best approach to this…perhaps i’ll find a forum to see how other teachers deal with it. It’s not a crisis, but it does make for more talking on my part than I’m happy with. But, things have just started, so we’ll see about how things change in the coming week.

Students are now readily accessing videos (I’ve made about 13 at this point) and seem to be using them to good effect. Early homeworks are coming in and looking surprisingly good; and i haven’t introduced any of the materials of their homework assignments in class, but all entirely via video. I have two more to make to get us through the end of next week, and hope to get those done by the weekend’s end.

Another class is just two students, and that’s basically a seminar. We will soon dig in to technical matters, teaching the software, getting into basic assignments which nonetheless encourage some creative thinking… This class is a 15-week one, so am feeling much less stressed here.

Private lessons are simple. And, likely based on the fact that I was gone last semester and the younger students thought me unavailable for study, I’ve only got two of them, both upperclassmen. Very easy, and my efforts will go into the weekly composition Colloquium for all students, which begins tomorrow.

Some ideas about what we might address in there (beyond the usual occasional session where I and my colleagues talk about our own music) related to “these times” and “relevancy”. Isolation, activism, community, responsibility, etc. Hope to bring in some colleagues from all over to vid-link in and chat about their thoughts on these matters. Just working on the calendar, coordinating with colleagues, etc. But will get started on that today, in prep for tomorrow’s first meeting of the semester.