Coronavirus Days--Week 9
When I rushed out of campus on March 12th, I knew I most likely would not return for the semester but couldn't quite think of everything I might need to finish the semester. My computer. Textbooks. Some random writing only submitted on paper needing feedback. I grabbed a bag, stuffed it with those items, and left. In that moment, I just wanted out, tired of two weeks of eyeing steadily for the virus, wondering if someone in a classroom was infected, if everyone in the bathroom washed hands to the tune of "Happy Birthday."
And now, some nine weeks later, my least favorite semester ever is done. Usually when I near the end of the semester, I am counting down the moments, a can't wait to be free from the exhaustion, a celebration of untethered weeks ahead. Typically, I also relish the final projects, excited to read awesome demonstrations of learning, enjoying final discussions and celebrations in class. Not so much this time around. Instead, the semester ended with a type of whimper, no grand crescendo of relief. Just a fade out. Done.
Students did fine work, for the most part. They triumphed from their childhood bedrooms, their cramped quarters with roommates, their spaces I didn't know prior to a move to remote learning. But they were as done as I was as we moved closer to the end of the semester. Neither of us signed up for a semester interrupted by a pandemic.
When I submitted the last grade, I felt more sorrow than joy, a wishing for what could have been if we hadn't all left campus that day to not return again this semester. I didn't get to see faces light up when I sat with final writing portfolios and pointed out passages I love (it's not the same with Zoom, just not). I didn't get to sit back and watch the adrenaline rush of nerves and ultimate triumph when students presented final projects Ignite style. And I didn't get to unveil an awesome itinerary for our Ireland study abroad class, since that part of the class became a casualty right before campus closed.
This past week, I wrote up my end of year performance narrative, and I felt like I needed a container to hold my thoughts, some way to frame things. BP (Before Pandemic) and DP (During Pandemic). I couldn't remember lots from before, only random bits from the fall and the start of the spring. It paled with the pandemic weeks. It didn't seem important. All I could recall, all that seemed to demand focus was the during--the disappointment, the lack of joy that characterized my teaching these past weeks.
And now it is just slightly behind me, a bit in the past, but still there with the anxiety of uncertainty, with the lack of clarity about what my fall brings. Even though I have taught a class or two online for a couple of decades, I realized that a full load of doing that is not for me. I miss the community. I miss the challenge of the classroom. I miss the familiarity of faces that grow into complex stories of learning that I get to travel with week by week. And laughter. And voices. And the squirrelly bodies as the weather warms each day, finding reasons with students that class somehow has to occur outside.
Even though my bag of office I left with weeks ago sufficed, I need more than a computer and textbooks to teach.