COVID-19: A Professor’s Perspective

Cosco-TaraTara Cosco, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Education at Milligan College. She has been a KDP member for more than 20 years and serves as the Counselor of the Alpha Iota Iota Chapter.

 

 

Initially, when we heard about the Coronavirus, the college was on spring break, so to be honest I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. I was enjoying my time off.

Then, the college announced we had an extra week of spring break.

Naturally, I reacted joyfully. I took long walks in the park with my co-worker and enjoyed the extra time off from work.

Then, the college announced we needed to transition to online teaching for the rest of the semester.

What? I better look into what this is truly all about. The college is one of the last places to close. When public schools close, we tend to stay open if at all possible, so this must be serious, I thought.

I wasn’t too worried about the transition to teaching online. One of my classes was already online, and most of my materials are housed online anyway.

The first week of online teaching was okay. I added assignments to make up for the in-class work I would have typically given them. I wasn’t feeling the stress I assumed some of my other colleagues were, because I love technology and use it often anyway.

Then, we had an area meeting, and the realities of what others were facing became apparent.

My chair talked about the students’ fears about graduation and how they would finish the hours needed in the schools as a student teacher and intern. We were told many of the mentor teachers were now having to homeschool their own children and at the same time teach their students. Spouses were out of work and tensions were high. My heart started to ache for the students who dreamed of their senior year with friends and their graduation celebration. The moment they had all worked so hard for was now something that we feared would not happen.

The second week of class in quarantine, I decided to hold a Zoom meeting and allow students to gather together virtually if they could. I allowed those who were unable to attend the virtual class to watch the replay later.

I was thrilled to see my students’ faces again! I had missed them terribly!

This pandemic had taught me that there was a lot in this world I took for granted. I took for granted the everyday conversations, interactions with colleagues, students, friends, and family. We held class as usual, only through a screen instead of in person. It worked well! I was pleased with the technology, the ability to share my screen, and interact as if we were in an actual classroom.

It is now early April, and we are starting a month-long lockdown.

I am missing my colleagues, students, friends, and loved ones terribly!

I miss eating out, social gatherings, a friendly hug. The news tells of projected deaths and times are scary.

I hope everyone stays safe and we return to normal soon with an attitude of gratitude.

For e-learning resources and a community of peers, visit KDP’s website at http://www.kdp.org.

Seeing Past the Problem

My first night of teaching at a small liberal arts college, I walked into the classroom with trepidation and—after being sassed—walked out with disgust. The second night, I called security to escort a student from the room. After only two class sessions, I had had enough. I was ready to give up, except then I remembered that I needed to get paid.

By November, it was really over for me. I called my mom and said; “I quit!”

She replied, “Really? ’Cause you have no money.”

I grumbled.

While each class was becoming easier and lesson planning was doable, the semester was still not going well. I was teaching Freud’s psychosexual stages of development, which should have interested my students. One night, they were particularly rambunctious. Why couldn’t they focus? Why didn’t they believe in themselves? Suddenly, an epiphany! Were they really being rude? Maybe they were as insecure and scared as I was.

“Professor Simmons, are we done? Can we go?”

I looked up, waited a beat, and finally said; “Put your books away.”

They froze. They were sure I was punishing them with a test. I asked them to take out a sheet of paper. They did, amongst moans and groans.

I continued, “Please put your name and date at the top of the paper. Write the names of each student in this class, leaving space between them. Then write five positive adjectives about each person.

D’s hand went up. “Professor Simmons, do they have to be positive?”

“Yes, they have to be positive.”

Another hand went up. “What is an adjective?”

I defined it.

Another hand. “Do you really want us to do this?”

I took a deep breath. “Yes, I want you to do this.”

Twenty minutes passed. Amazingly, some of these students had to conjure up positive scripts among the many negative ones about themselves and others. I dismissed the class early.

I hopped on the train. “What the heck am I going to do with these? There’s only one more class before Thanksgiving.” After an hour and a half commute on three trains to teach a 3-hour class that met 15 times a semester for which I was paid only minimally, I ducked into a store and bought note cards. Once home, I addressed each one of my students: “Dear ________, The Introduction to Psychology class is thankful for you because you are _________________.” After an hour, with sores on my writing hand, I looked at them and smiled.

I was no longer angry or fearful. I was finally hopeful. The next week, I explained that I had been frustrated, and apologized. Then I distributed the cards. As students read what their peers thought of them, a smile came to some faces or a tear ran down a cheek.

When I taught that night, the class listened, asked questions and, for the first time, did their work without complaint. I taught at that college for another 4 years.

A few years later, there was a knock at my door. I smiled when I saw him. He had started as my most troublesome student and left my best. He thanked me and gave me a gift.

As we chatted, he opened his wallet. Folded in his billfold was the card. He said, “Whenever I feel bad about myself, I take out this card and I remember that I am all of these things and more.” He wasn’t alone. It had been a defining point. He and every single student from that class successfully graduated.

Teaching is not always easy. Yet, educators must see past the problem and have hope.

 

Janelle C. SimmonsJC Simmons Photo is President/CEO of Speak Forth, LLC, and a Doctoral Candidate at Liberty University Online. She can be reached by email at speakforthllc@gmail.com.