Kindred Spirits: In Praise of Online Classes
July 25, 2016 § 15 Comments
A guest post by Ann V. Klotz
By late afternoon, I get a little itchy to get to a computer. I’m waiting for the “Recent Canvas Notifications” to appear in my inbox, with comments from my Creative Nonfiction Online Class on “Summary and Scene.” The sense of anticipation reminds me of a cross between Christmas and my birthday, though we are now in the middle of summer and both of those holidays occur in December. I want to get away from everyone and see what my group has to say about what I posted the day before. Walking up the hill from the lake, I muse about how addictive and satisfying this process is—write, get feedback, revise, post again, get more feedback. I’m in crush!
This online community exerts a powerful, private hold on me. I don’t know any of the people personally, but I know whose writing I admire, whose comments I like, whose feedback I crave, who seems kind, maybe irreverent and funny. I love our teacher, the formidable Joelle Fraser, whom I came to know in my online writing classes the previous summer.
Early last fall, still on a high from my first foray into this type of learning, I took a second online class, “Motherhood and Words,” with Kate Hopper, a teacher magical in her ability to create community in a virtual space. I was hooked. This online world, these new undemanding friends I’d never met, were answering a need that no one else in my daily life had time to meet. The people in my school and family don’t have time to agonize over word choice with me, to read twelve drafts of a story in order to help me decide on the one that works best. In another terrific class, offered by Mothers Always Write, several of my fellow students and I became Facebook pals after the course ended—they have crossed over into my everyday life, though we have not yet met in person. Perhaps someday we will…or not. Either way will be okay.
Online classes aren’t always utopian rainbows and butterflies, of course. Hoping to replicate this past summer’s euphoria during Cleveland’s unending winter, I signed up for a class I came to loathe. People were not generous in responding to one another’s pieces. The feedback from the teacher felt mean-spirited. I bristled when she suggested I needed to learn “to show, not tell.” Okay, forget bristle…I was furious. I’m an English teacher, for god’s sake. I try not to be that patronizing to my own 9th graders. So, I dropped out. I, professional “good girl,” quit, which—by itself—was liberating. I have a tough time with the concept of ever giving up on obligations, relationships, even on boring novels. Walking away felt dangerous and forbidden and great.
So, I entered this summer’s course with trepidation. I held my breath until I started reading the comments people offered one another. “Ahh,” I exhaled. “I’ve found them. My writing people—strangers all. I’m home.”
Ann V. Klotz is a teacher/writer/headmistress/mother. Her work has appeared in Mothers Always Write, The Legendary, Motherlode: An Anthology, and Independent School Magazine.