Friday, November 29, 2013

Belly Flop

When I was a kid taking swimming lessons, it took me a long time to learn how to dive. I would stand at the side of the pools, toes curled down on the edge, my arms over my heart with my hands in a prayerful position. I would start to lean over, willing my hands and arms towards the water. But invariably, when I got to the critical "about to go in" phase, I would lift my head up and smack belly first into the pool.

Belly flops, we called them. Young boys thoughts they were great fun and would spend long summer afternoons trying to outdo one another in making the loudest, most painful smacking sound.

I belly flopped recently. No, not in water, but in real life.

I have been intrigued by the rise of massive online open courses (MOOCs). The more I read about them, the more I wanted to sign up for a MOOC. This fall I finally jumped in (so to speak) and signed up for a MOOC on early New England poets, taught by Harvard professor Elisa New.

Four weeks of classes, with new video lectures, readings, and online discussions coming out every Thursday.

Easy peasy, no?

It would have been, in a perfect world. It would have been, if I had been more driven and more focused. It would have been if I could have shut out everyone and everything once a week for, oh, 4-5 hours.

I made it through week 1 and 2, then fled.

When I signed up for the course, I wrote enthusiastically to friends about how much I was looking forward to being in a poetry class again. Now I am scuffing my toe in the dust and mumbling how it didn't go as I had hoped.

When my boys were little, they watched a children's puppet show, Eureeka's Castle. One character was a bat named Batley, who always smacked face first into a wall or door in every episode. Batley would fall to the ground, then rise up, spread his wings, and declare "I meant to do that!"

Well, I didn't. I meant to do all the readings, listen to all the lectures, and engage in discussion with my fellow online students. I meant to gain more insight and understanding into the world of the early immigrants to this country. I meant to dive right into the waters of poetry and come up refreshed and revitalized.

Instead, start to go in, lift up the head, and splat!

Belly flop.


Sue said...

This is why I often wonder how well "online" learning works for children and adolescents (and college students as well). I certainly would have a hard time disciplining myself to do the work with no one to reinforce the experience. Bravo to you for trying it!

see you there! said...

You gave it a try, that counts for something. Like Sue, I think I need classes where I actually have to show up in person and be accounted for.