By Doug Ward

This is what teaching online looks like.

That’s not quite right. This is what planning for teaching online looks like after a week and a weekend of long days and an early meeting on Monday morning.a look down at feet with mismatched boots

About noon, I looked down and realized I was wearing mismatched boots. Some people wear mismatched socks. I wear mismatched boots.

Rather than hide them, I showed them to everyone I met on what was probably the last day of in-person meetings for quite some time. I emailed the photo to colleagues and to my students. Everyone needed the laugh.

“We’re not really laughing at you,” Diana Koslowsky, the administrative officer of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, said after I pulled my feet from beneath a conference table and held them up. “It’s just …”

“We know what it’s like,” said Ward Lyles, an associate professor in the school and a faculty fellow at CTE.

I held up my hands.

“It’s all right,” I said. “Laugh. We all need it.”

Tensions are high right now as the corona virus spreads and instructors scramble to put their courses online. Anxiety lurks on every surface. Encounters with others are awkward as we maintain a distance but still try to be social.

Despite the turmoil, we can’t lose our sense of humor. Laughter is important for maintaining a bond of shared humanity. It’s important for pushing aside the tension, if only briefly.

So laugh at yourself. Laugh at the absurdity of the circumstances. Laugh at Michael Bruening from Missouri University of Science and Technology as he sings “I Will Survive” online teaching. Laugh at my mismatched boots.

I want you to know, though, that even in mismatched boots, I was able to get done everything I needed to get done. My boots may have looked absurd, but I at least put them on the right feet. Mismatched or not, my boots still pointed forward.

Online, nobody knows …

In 1993, The New Yorker published a Peter Steiner cartoon with a caption that said, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

The cartoon captured the doubts about a growing online culture and the anonymity it represented.

With apologies to Steiner, I offer a remake of the original. I’ll let you decipher it for yourself. I will say, though, that when you teach online, nobody laughs at your boots.

jayhawk sits at computer and tells a dog, "When you teach online, nobody knows you are a god."

Doug Ward is the associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and an associate professor of journalism. You can follow him on Twitter @kuediting.

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