Teaching College Students During a Pandemic is Surreal

When I learned that all instruction was going online, I thought of it as an adventure. But, instead, I find it difficult for students and me. Meeting in Zoom is very different, and keeping their attention in a classroom is hard, but when they are at home with so many distractions, like family, it is nigh impossible.

The student who comes each time in a housecoat and sitting on a bed distracts me when teaching, as I am afraid she is going to show some unmentionables at any moment. I don’t wish to be a witness to anyone’s embarrassment, but it seems no one cares but me, as one other student complimented the young lady on her robe choice.

But, the major problem for me is that so many of them choose not to show their faces, keeping their videos off, and I wonder what they are doing at the same time that I am trying to teach them sociological concepts and theories. I don’t feel to ask them to have the videos on, as their bedrooms may be in shambles and they don’t want others to see it. Indeed, I have had to clean my office, trying not to be judged as slovenly.

We are required to lecture, as if we are still in a face-to-face environment. I have shown grace to those who don’t attend, as I have no clue what their lives are like and if some are still working during this time or have small kids at home, meaning they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on me for seventy-five minutes.

Over the last two days, the first exam online has been taken, and not being there to answer questions and help them has given me pain. I have had to allow one student to rewrite the essay portion of the test, as she submitted three sentences where she was supposed to write at least three paragraphs. I was contrite, in that my instructions may not have been clear.

This is a time when you must have standards for students, but also be merciful. No one could have known that a crisis of this proportion would hit in the middle of the semester. It is surreal trying to teach when so many are suffering from cabin fever, including me. I just want “normal” to return.

But one thing that helps alleviate some of the stress of this time is this: Giving my students the best of me and helping them discover the best of themselves is still possible, no matter the teaching environment. Utilizing humor and letting them know how proud I am that they allow me to teach them keeps us all focused on assisting each other through this amazingly painful time for the world.

My heart goes out to them. I would like us all to remember the words of Rudyard Kipling that I learned in the sixth grade (Thank you, Miss Hawkins) and whch still sustains me in times of trouble: The poem If:

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son [and woman, my daughter].

Stay safe, y’all.

Fandango prompt is Contrite. Ragtag prompt is Shambles. Word of the Day is Grace. Your Daily Word is Adventure. The Daily Spur prompt is Witness.

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