Saturday, November 20, 2021

How's Your Semester Going?

As the pandemic goes on and on, I find myself increasingly tired. It's been hard to maintain good spirits in the classroom. There's something about masks that is messing me up. A mask is hard to talk through, it's uncomfortable when I quickly get sweaty teaching face, and I can't see students' facial expressions. I feel like my humor is missing this semester. Every step of the way, it all feels different to me.

The students are doing their best. They are tired too. Some have reminded me that they spent last year learning remotely, and the transition back to the classroom has been a challenging one. In my intro classes, I don't see much interaction between the students. I think the masks are a barrier. They make things impersonal and uncomfortable. Masks are required for all of us when indoors on campus this semester. I fully support masks as a safety measure. But they are tough to deal with when it comes to teaching and connecting with students.

My thinking as the pandemic drags on is that I don't want to add stress to their lives. They are already over stressed with 5-6 classes, one or more jobs, and all the other stuff of life. I think sometimes we look at them only as students. We forget they are full human beings and being students is just one part of who they are. This semester a student told me she can relax in my class. It was a great compliment to me. I try to create a low stress learning environment. Maybe that's a luxury I have as the easy going sociology professor. But truly I don't want to pile on stress.

There are other approaches to take and ways to cope. I suppose others would seek to tighten the structure. It might come from a firm belief that structure is vital and that we all need to push through. This approach might come from a sincere belief that this is the way we prepare people for the rest of their lives. The thinking might be we aren't doing students any favors if we are too accommodating and flexible. There might also be the concern about rigor. That is to say, if we ease up too much, where is the academic rigor?

But I come back to the thought that different times call for different measures. I'm not hurrying up to make things feel like they used to, or trying to have "a normal semester," whatever that means. I'm looking at things and feeling through things and adapting to things as they are right now. 

And how's your semester going? 

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