Kindred Spirits: In Praise of Online Classes

July 25, 2016 § 15 Comments

A guest post by Ann V. Klotz


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.


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§ 15 Responses to Kindred Spirits: In Praise of Online Classes

  • Like any online (writing) course, I guess it’s a matter of luck as to the configuration of teachers and students and when it works it’s magic. Maybe not so different to online dating! I’ve taken one Creative Nonfiction Online Class and can’t express enough how much appreciation I have for my instructor Jonathan Callard. He took a lot of time to give generous and extensive feedback on my work, and helped me see many different ways forward with my writing. I didn’t even realise it was possible to give feedback like his actually.

    But yes, like you, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with the peer interaction – after a couple of weeks I stopped expecting much from that aspect of the course. I even laughed at the end when one of the others said that the highlight of the course for her was giving feedback to others – it was laughable because I had only gotten feedback from her on 2 out of 3 of my pieces and what she did send through felt pretty cursory compared to how much time and effort I put into hers. Oh well, c’est la vie. The course was still totally worthwhile because of the instructor’s feedback, lectures and selection of readings.

  • Yup. I loved my experience with the Mothers Always Write class, and the INVALUABLE help and encouragement from my Writing Group. It takes a village to write a book 😉

  • I just finished Creative Nonfiction’s Flash Essay class. It was fantastic! I learned so much, and it is always validating to hear that someone, or some people, like my writing, even in its flawed state. I also became sick during the class which would have thwarted my physical presence. The accessibility of online classes can’t be beat.

    • Ann V. Klotz says:

      Barbie–so glad you had a terrific experience–I loved, too, that I could log in when it worked for me–so liberating!

  • clpauwels says:

    Reblogged this on CL Pauwels at Large and commented:
    As happens so often, Brevity dropped into my feed with just what I needed to hear as I put the finishing (?!) touches on my online class for fall. I’ve found this community in my own writing tribe – virtual or in person – and I hope I’m able to provide that space for my students as well.

    Does online sharing work for you?

    • Ann V. Klotz says:

      I’m glad the post was helpful as you get ready to teach! The online sharing felt fun for me, though there were times when I struggled to add meaningful feedback for others after 5 or 6 people had already written about a particular post.

  • Ann V. Klotz says:

    Thanks for your comments above–it seems fitting that my fabulous CNF class ended yesterday…so, today, I am in mourning.

  • Zoya S says:

    Great piece Ann! So great to read your writing here. I so so agree about online writing classes and just how lovely (and slightly addictive) they are. Cheers, Zoya

  • I’m honored to be mentioned in this essay. I’ve been teaching at CNF for a few years, and every time it’s been both intense and rewarding.

  • Ann V. Klotz says:

    And learning with you is an amazing adventure–just saying. Thank you, Joelle!

  • katehopper says:

    Ann, I’m so honored to be mentioned here, as well. It’s such a joy to teach when I have wonderful students like you.

  • Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Incredible and forthright article from a newly liberated English teacher 🙂

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