I’ve spent the last few days reading and grading the papers students have been turning in, papers arising from their journals but with added research and an interview. Though not perfect (especially in the research and interview part—and proofreading), the papers have been quite good. I have been impressed and, sometimes, moved by what I have been reading.
Though this semester has been especially difficult—a disaster, some would say—many of you have been working as hard as you can to make the best of it. And I don’t simply mean on your classes. Some of you have lost family members and have had to take on more responsibility as a result. Some have had friends and family get sick and have had to step up to deal with that. Others are struggling financially, a real hardship in a society so dependent on money. A few are suddenly living in a new place with all of the disorientation that brings. All of you face the uncertainty of a pandemic our country is handing in an almost haphazard fashion, one that we have no idea when it will end but that is closing us off personally as well as in terms of our futures.
The politicians like to call what we are experiencing a “pause.” That’s a laugh. For many of us, it is a smackdown—and one where we can’t fight back.
We watch on TV those who pretend to fight back, carrying guns into statehouses or even killing people asking them to wear masks, and realize that the only way we can struggle effectively is to not fight it at all but find ways to abide. Resisting just makes the bonds tighter, drawing the virus more securely around us.
Though we have lost tremendous numbers of students who have decided that, with all the other things they have to deal with, they cannot continue with their studies this semester (and I don’t blame them), that so many of you remain and continue to turn in good work in a difficult situation heartens me.
Though City Tech will continue online at least through the start of the fall semester, there should be lots of changes in how the classes are presented making, I hope, your experiences as students much better than they have been this semester, where the ‘migration’ online was forced, fast and slipshod. In our class, we had a little advantage: I was able to set up the OpenLab site before the shutdown and get many of you registered for the course page. Because I was fairly sure this was going to happen, as we talked about in class, I was a little better prepared than most. I knew we would have to jettison the agenda for the rest of the semester—the book I had handed out to you and that you were to turn in with notes: As one of you pointed out, that was no longer practical. So, I substituted the journal assignment and the poems I put up, quickly flipping into a new orientation.
Of course, I don’t know how things are going in your other classes, but I do hope it has been just as well. City Tech professors are often attuned to the needs of students and know how to be flexible. The pandemic has certainly shown us, faculty and students alike, the value of flexibility.
The classes I teach in the fall will be better designed for online learning than this has been, for I have had more time to work out how things should be done. I do not like teaching solely online but, like all of you, I have to make the best of things. The journal will be part of the classes, but it will also be a log of student activity—everything a student does will be recorded there. The requirements will still be of three papers and a portfolio beyond that and the course will revolve around a theme (coronavirus was dropped on us as the theme by events, but the one for the fall may be related) but with as much room as possible for students to pursue their own interests. I am working on new ways for getting students to collaborate, something we’ve not done enough of this semester, and things I can add to make the experience on OpenLab more interesting.
Whatever happens, though, it is going to be you students who manage to complete the course this semester that I am going to remember. You were thrown into the deep end of a pool but have shown that you can think quickly and swim. I am impressed with you—and am impressed that some are still joining even this late in the semester to do what is needed and pass the course—and, possibly, even earn a high grade.
So, this will be the last of my journal entries. Good luck to you on your portfolios, on your other classes, and in the summer and fall!