“I’m over it,” my son said on Sunday, talking about taking classes on Zoom from home. Two weeks ago he floated taking next semester off from college. He is supposed to be away at college enjoying his sophomore year among all the friends he made last year, engaging in class discussions across the seminar table, attending club meetings and sporting events. Instead, he is mostly home sharing the Zoom Room with his mom. He hates it. And he has every emotional, academic, financial, familial and racial privilege–he doesn’t have to pick up his sister from school or help his kids with online homework or work 35 hours a week or deal with a dysfunctional family situation. So I keep thinking, if he is struggling, how are my students doing?
Yesterday, some English colleagues and I were texting about how suddenly our students are starting to struggle. Their students have expressed that they are stressed, depressed, unmotivated. I am starting to see students oversleep, not complete their work, turn off their videos during class, and start to drift away. In talking with my son, my colleagues and my students, I was reminded of the report put out by the National Association for Learning Outcomes Assessment in August entitled, “Assessment During a Crisis: Responding to a Global Pandemic.” I mentioned this report in August during my workshops but it might be time to revisit their wise words.
Feel free to read the whole thing, but I pulled out some key takeaways from pages 24-25 under the “Do’s and Dont’s for the Future” section. Their very first Don’t is this: “Don’t forget we are in a pandemic. Still.” And Don’t #5 is this: “Do not forget that this is not the educational experience students wanted or expected”. The report continues, “attempting to live, survive, and learn in a pandemic is ongoing. This means that expectations to maintain the same levels of productivity in research and teaching for faculty, and learning for students, is not only unhelpful, it is unhealthy, likely to fuel mental health issues, and preposterous during a pandemic.”
I love these reassuring words. We are still in a pandemic. This is not what any of us wanted. It makes teaching and learning harder. And so we have to pay special attention to the physical and mental well-being of our students–and of ourselves. Here is an article with practical tips for how we can help our students. And here are some more tips–these are from students.