Kueppers: Princess (Zoom) Diaries

Chapter 1: Teaching the Teacher.

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Henry Kueppers

In academia, I respect my role as a student. This is a societal position that is bestowed upon most young people, and there seems to be a collective agreement within it. As students, our job is not to teach, but rather to be taught. Our job is to ask questions but not have all the answers. Our job is to throw paper airplanes at the wall and be told we’re a bum. That is the role of the student. It is a sacred, delicate balance in the classroom between the teacher and the student.

Yet, with the pandemic, the landscape of our classrooms have changed and with that, so have the relationships and duties of the student and the teacher. Now, students like myself find themselves in weird, uncomfortable positions of power. Because in a digital classroom, the teacher is out of their natural element, whereas the student is right at home. (We live to be on our devices! Screen-agers, am I right?) This past month, there have been several instances where I, a shithead 22-year-old who Googles the plot summary of “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” during class, have found myself teaching my professor, a doctorate-earning scholar who has dedicated their lives to their specific field of study, how to use Zoom.

For instance, in one class, I had to explain to a teacher how to utilize and open the chat tool in Zoom. Another time, my professor could not for the life of them figure out how to unmute themselves. My first instinct was naturally to turn on my mic, practice my Adam Driver impression, hijack the class and lead a riveting discussion on what we as a class believed were the strengths and pitfalls of the original “Planet of the Apes” film series. However, after concluding that my classmates would all make the same derivative analysis — that “Planet of the Apes” highlights classism, sexism and racism issues in our past, present and future — I realized the endeavor would be fruitless because all us “Planet of the Apes” scholars have heard that argument a few hundred times too many. But I digress. We eventually got the professor to turn on their mic after several minutes of chatting and emailing.

Bottom line is, Zoom has blurred the once cemented lines of who the teacher is and who the students are. I still respect my professors and understand they are trying their best, but I cannot lie and say it does not affect my learning experience. Therefore, to all my fellow students, I offer my condolences and sympathy. If you are feeling hopeless, unmotivated or annoyed with school, you are not in the wrong. Neither are your professors. This is a dumb, weird situation we have found ourselves in. Yet, there is hope. Maybe this will carve the way for a new era of teaching and classroom relations.

Perhaps, the voices of students will be heard and treated with more respect. Maybe professors will learn that students are not just stupid shitheads obsessed with “Planet of the Apes” and that they too can teach the teachers of the world. And maybe, just maybe, in a perfect world, teachers will create a space where they finish class 10 minutes early so that students can educate all involved on where they believe the “Planet of the Apes” series will go in the future.

Disclaimer: The columnist apologies for his frequent “Planet of the Apes” references, yet he wants to make it clear that he regrets nothing.