I don’t know where to begin!

Teaching: as I commented on one of Chris’s posts, I have added some COVID-19 specific materials to my class’s work and reading list. I have also straight-up cancelled, just deleted, about two assignments. I wanted to make this semester as easy as possible for them, but I also want to offer them some things to learn and read and experience in case that is a useful distraction for them right now, and in case it helps them better navigate this very weird experience we’re all going through.

I emailed my students several times over break, without any response. Then, I created an anonymous survey about their needs and experiences of the quarantine, etc., and I was floored when I read their responses. One student had a professor tell them they were expected to come to campus to meet later this semester. Several students are at home with all their siblings and family, sharing one computer. Other students have elderly or immunocompromised relatives they are worried about. Many of them are very confused about the practical details of their situation—will they be getting refunded their meal plan, housing, tuition? How have their major assignments changed? When and how will finals be conducted? It is too much for a first year student to be dealing with. I am doing my best, sending out emails trying to answer these questions and send out clarifying information about what changes are taking place in our own class.

One specific question I have about revising my syllabus is an assignment I introduced before spring break. First, students research their major and learn about likely jobs, popular publications, professional associations, that kind of thing. They pull this together into a “Wikipedia page,” kind of a bulleted list of information and links. Then, they interview (over email) a professor, TA, or grad student (or person who works in the discipline in the world) and write a reflective essay on what they learned about their future discipline.  Because they have already started the first part, I didn’t feel great about cancelling the second part. But, as you can imagine, several students have written to me that profs aren’t getting back to them about the email interview. I’m not sure what to do. Should I cancel the assignment altogether? Make it extra credit? I was just thinking this morning that maybe I could make the interview optional and take the essay in another direction—say, research a hot topic in their major and write a reflective essay about that, instead. It’s difficult when this is already in process—there are students who have likely already completed their interviews. Sigh. Anyway, thank you for listening.

Studenting: I put a lot of time and energy into developing the CTW conference, and that’s now cancelled. Fortunately, we all got paid for the work we did. I’m very grateful for that. I was going to submit a poster that would help me advance my writing anxiety research, but of course now that’s not happening. I think my response to this is simply relief.

I had planned to meet with Brenda after break to develop an Independent Study class for the fall, and now we’ll have to do it over email. She just emailed me that the deadline for the proposal is in 2 or 3 weeks, so I’ll have to actually get working on that. I have a big idea for my final project for my other seminar, “Responding to International Student Writing.” I’m trying to coordinate that into a group project with my classmates (again, over email).

Reflecting: Next year is unclear. I applied for a position at the Writing Center, and haven’t heard back yet. So I may be doing that. However, the class I’m taking now has got me very interested in teaching multilingual students, so I’m interested in teaching 1003 in the fall, and I’ve sent out some emails about how to make that happen, but it’s not clear yet. What will my job be in the fall? What classes will I be taking? Finally, some folklorists reached out to me and invited me to be on a panel in the fall about Folklore and Editing (improbably on-the-nose for my interests), which I’m thrilled about, but now have to write a very short proposal this weekend!

In the midst of making all these plans, I can’t help but ask myself—“will the conference in October even happen? Will we still have face-to-face classes in the fall? Will we all be healthy and alive in the fall?” After a few weeks of things being cancelled, it feels foolhardy to plan for things. But, as Wei-Hao suggested in his post, there is something soothing about planning for the future, because it helps you remember there will probably be one!

One thought on “Teaching, Studenting, Reflecting

  1. Psyche, I was also struck by some of my students’ responses to this crisis, although I didn’t hear anything from them about other instructors’ expectations. I hope that whatever professor wanted to have students meet face-to-face has realized the absurdity of that plan. And I can imagine your feeling of relief about the writing conference being canceled. I know that I’m feeling relieved about not having to write the paper that I proposed (yet, at least).


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