Since the college has closed, I am fortunate enough to have heard from all of my students  A few of them went home and fell into the functional, loving arms of their parents. Most did not. One is home in Sault Ste. Marie where her father has tested positive for Covid-19 and the entire family is sick. They’ve been told to stay home until it passes. Another is home in her rural hometown without internet or a laptop.  Yet another is home in her fundamental Christian home where she is now subjected to daily verbal and emotional abuse. Others are now home with their children who need to be entertained, supported and fed. They are managing food and housing insecurity, job loss, alcohol and drug issues, abusive partners, etc. Despite all of that, most of them are plowing ahead and finishing the project which was technically due last Friday. None of them finished by Friday.

In addition to all of this, they have had to become accustomed to teleconferencing, finding a place in their homes to complete work, figure out how to get at least a modicum of privacy. On top of all of that, they have to manage their fear or their denial around the virus. A few are adamant this is all a hoax, others are paranoid it’s a conspiracy, most are afraid of the unknown. Much of my time in our virtual conferences has been spent educating them on the facts and assuaging their fear.

All of this is to say, we need to be extremely gentle and kind with our students right now.  This is not the time to add anything new, make anything harder or worry about cheating. This is the time to look at our learning outcomes and determine if our students have met them. Many of my students have already achieved what our department has required for successful advancement. Therefore, I’ve determined they are finished with the course. By allowing these students to finish early, that leaves more time for me to work with the vulnerable students and help them advance.  

This is also the time to back off. Given everything our students are managing, they do not need us making life harder for them. This is why I’ve decided to cut out the majority of the assignments for the last four weeks. Looking at the outcomes and looking carefully at the threshold concepts that my students need to learn to be successful at the next level of English, I can tailor the rest of the course to ensure mastery without having to focus on hours in the seat or hours in the week. It’s a great opportunity to determine what is superfluous and what can be revised to best meet our needs right now. We must release ourselves and our students from the constraints of our own rigidity. Let the craziness of the time become our chance to reflect and make what we do even better.