Late October Reflections – 2020

Teaching online takes so much more time than it does in person. I have to rely on words alone to explain complex concepts and details rather than help students develop their ideas face-to-face through dialogic exchanges, marker in hand to draw diagrams on the white board to illustrate how things fit together.

It leaves me little time to write anything other than comments on papers, emails, and class presentations. When I do post something on my blog, I try valiantly to respond to comments and visits in the few moments I have but inevitably I fall behind and feel guilty. So, I don’t post often, and rarely write except on the mornings before our bi-weekly Zoom classes. I guess I should just call my bi-weekly posts – Class Day Reflections.

Class Day – October 24, 2020

“If the rivers and lakes could speak, or more aptly, if one took the time to listen and understand them, what would they say about the way humans have been treating them?”

September 19, 2020 – View of the St. Louis Bay and Superior Bay from Enger Tower


This is the question my colleague asked at the end of our classes today when we were consulting with the one student who remained after classes ended, eagerly asking advice on the best ways to approach a community project exploring water issues that excited her.

I believe they would tell us humans all need to do better. Humans need to pay attention to the danger signs all around them and learn how to listen.

Not surprisingly, it was so tempting to stay wrapped in the piles of cozy blankets rather than venture out into the drafty cold of another frigid early morning. Yet my waking moment musings impelled me to run downstairs to my computer to type “what I noticed.”


Class 7 PowerPoint Slide – October 24, 2020


What I noticed this morning

In a hypnagogic haze, halfway between asleep and awake, I heard the sound of a train, echoing from the ridge to the west. It reminded me of an environmental disaster that occurred before I moved to Duluth – the train that derailed in 1992.

• “Superior [Wisconsin] is not a stranger to industrial accidents prompting mass evacuations. In 1992, a train containing benzene gas derailed just south of the city, covering the region in a bluish, toxic haze. The event, which has come to be known as “Toxic Tuesday” among many locals, forced the evacuation of nearly 30,000 people from the city.” (CBS News, 2018)

• I also remembered the Huske Refinery Fire that I did witness as I walked my dog on April 26, 2018. I saw the huge black toxic cloud filling the sky just across the St. Louis Bay to the east, carried south by strong winds.

• Two years later, the danger the plant still poses, along with dangers of the Enbridge tar-sands pipeline, rarely make the news. We take our access to safe water for granted and fail to be part of the efforts to prevent further threats for future generations.

• For more information: 6/


I guess it’s not surprising that someone born on the cusp of Pisces (the sign of two fish swimming in opposite directions) and Aquarius (the sign of the water-bearer) would have an affinity for water. It is a gift to have a chance to find others who care about the rivers and lakes as well. I am deeply grateful for colleagues and students who are learning, as am I, to listen to the messages of the rivers and lakes in our beautiful homes in the USA and Canada.


View of Superior Bay from Enger Tower, September 19, 2020


I hope more of us can learn to listen and care before it’s too late…


15 thoughts on “Late October Reflections – 2020

  1. Are teachers not allowed to use the “share screen” feature in Zoom? Not allowing the use of various software like PowerPoint to show on your screen seems inordinately hard for online teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for a good question, Eddie. We can share PowerPoint presentations. There’s even a whiteboard we can share, but my practice attempts to draw on it were cumbersome and ridiculous. I can type on it, but that would affect my ability to be present. I did write an amusing reflection about Zoom. I’m sharing an excerpt below.

      ” It’s not the size of my nose that bothers me most these days when I see my image reflected back to me on the Zoom screen. But honestly, I try not to notice the way the camera highlights the two front teeth that were the victims of bad dentists, or how the headphones I need for audio make my scraggly, thinning, graying hair look even more disheveled. Let’s not mentioned the wrinkles or the lenses on my glasses that either reflect light from the window or computer screen or distort the size of my eyes. These are a small price to pay for a long life spent on gaining knowledge and compassion that I hope to pass on to others.
      The most difficult part of Zoom, though, is not being able to sense or change the energy in a room. All I have are words that don’t flow as easily when I have to remain stationary and speak to small images of student faces, or blank screens with their names when they turn off the video camera. I can’t even tell if the Zoom camera ever shows that I am looking at them directly when they’re speaking.
      Yet I try to communicate as effectively as possible anyway, because in these times connections matter even more. Although human connections with students are over a distancing medium, it’s the best we can do right now. I try to focus on the things that matter despite the vulnerabilities that are exposed in the process. A sense of humor and humility help…”

      Sending my gratitude and best wishes to you. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for taking the time to post this. I think the best thing most of us can do (and is in our power to do) to start putting a stop to environmental degradation is to vote Trump out of office. This isn’t about politics — it’s about our future.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Today I heard the earth described as an omelette. All the basic elements from space colliding, fusing and reacting… I guess we also could be an omelette of sorts, 90+% water with some more scrambled than others..😃 Take Care Carol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to teach online. I have failed in my few Zoom experiences. It’s not for me, yet I know it’s here to stay. You are smart to use this tool, albeit cumbersome, to continue to reach your students. All the best to you dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Bob. I so wish we didn’t have to rely on Zoom – it is so hard on students who signed up for a program that allowed them to meet with faculty and each other face-to-face. Trying to create a sense of community and connection is such a challenge and comes at the expense of actually sharing important content. Sending my best wishes to you, too. 💜


  5. I think it’s important to consider what the students feel about online learning . If I was still teaching, that question would be critical to my adjustment to this mode of teaching. Maybe they like it that way best and don’t miss the hands on approach of in live class leaning

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is such an important point, USF Man. Zoom is not an easy medium for the students who enrolled in a hybrid program and expected to meet face-to-face at least half of the time. Coupled with all of the extra challenges of life during COVID, it has been understandably hard for them to complete assignments and learn. It’s not easy for me, either. I had a chance to brainstorm with them in groups or individually to help them with assignments. Some request individual Zoom meetings which really do help, but many don’t. Comments typed on papers or emails just aren’t the same!


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