We’re in the middle of week 8 of fall term and there’s just another month of classes to go.
I don’t know about you, but my sense of time isn’t doing so well during the pandemic. I think it’s got something to do with not leaving the house! Some days it feels, with my graduate seminar, that term has just flown by–how can it be week 8 already?–and at other times it feels that I’ve been meeting with these students on Teams forever. It’s true that I am going to miss them when term is over.
I decided to teach this fall when I realized that if I was going to lead our College through a period of remote alternative delivery, I should have some experience of teaching in this distanced way myself. I’ve wondered about whether deans should teach before, but this year it was definitely the right choice for me. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d enjoy it, and how much connecting with this group of Philosophy graduate students would ground me through the pandemic. They’re smart, and caring, and generous, and I’m grateful we all have each other in these strange days.
It’s been a busy few weeks on campus. Last week was House Calls and Virtual Convocation and the Provost’s first online teaching dialogue. I did House Calls last year, visiting students in residence, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much they wanted to talk — and the good times and bad they were willing to share. I’m not sure that 18-year-old me, if she had lived in residence, would have welcomed faculty members, staff, and senior administrators dropping by to check in and see how term was going.
This year, using Teams and video chat, I was again amazed by our students and their willingness to engage. They answered the calls at home and while out walking. I got to hear a lot of what they liked about their online learning and what they were struggling with. Too much synchronous learning was internet challenging for some, too much asynchronous was challenging time management skills for others. Some of them had successfully formed virtual social and study communities. Others felt isolated both in residence and living at home.
They all craved connection and I think that’s part of why they responded to the House Calls. Some of them are still messaging me about their courses and I’m trying to help where I can. Talking to students reminded me why we’re all doing this, as hard and as weird as it is.
This week I also read Guelph Computer Science Professor Daniel Gillis’ lovely post about us all making it through the pandemic together, One Foot in Front of the Other, which made me hopeful about the rest of the year ahead.
Gillis writes, “I wrote earlier this semester that we’ll get through this together. Now is the time. Talk to the students in your labs and classes. Update their expectations and your expectations. Make sure they know that they can do it, and give them the energy they need. Cheer them on. And importantly, be there for each other. Reach out to your colleagues, to your family, to your friends. Remind the people in your life that we can do this. Use their reminders to keep you moving along. One foot in front of the other, we will finish this race together.”
I’m very happy to be part of the University of Guelph community of faculty, staff, and students. Yes, this is a challenging year, but we can do this! Thanks everyone for all that you do to make it happen.