I wrote this post in September and I’ve had such a busy semester, I put off revising and posting until now. I hope it’s still interesting to learn how my college is handling Covid.
I want to note 3 changes I’ve experienced since I’ve been back to my college for in-person learning.
First, masks. Our college is clear on the policy—everyone is to wear a mask. We’ve got boxes of disposable masks at every main entrance at the college, and people are complying.
I have not had 1 student come into class without a mask on, which has made things very easy for me. I haven’t had to ask a student to go back to the front of the building to get a mask; I haven’t had to calm students’ fears because someone is not wearing a mask. Besides asking a few students to pull up their “low-riding” masks (which were falling below their noses), I’ve not had to make any effort to enforce my college’s rules.
I have also been wearing a mask to teach in, and at first it was very weird. I felt like I had to yell just to get my words past my layers of cloth. Besides the extra effort it takes to speak clearly and loudly enough, I’ve run my classes very similarly to before the pandemic. I’ve made very few changes. For example, instead of shaking everyone’s hand on day 1, I’ve sat by students and introduced myself. We’ve spread out a bit more than usual to do group work. (A few groups have gone into the hallway, which gives them more room and leaves more room for the groups that remain in class.) I have gone paperless because of all the work I’ve done to get materials online since going remote last year.
Secondly, students seem especially eager to be back. Over the last 5 years or so, more and more students are absent from the first day of class. Yes, students miss THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS, which drives me nuts. I have a whole process, though, for when students miss the first day. I text and email them and request we talk before the second day of class so they can be prepared. Some students respond quickly, letting me know why they had to miss class and preparing for day 2. Others show up day 2 claiming to have not received my messages, and still others show up day 3 or 4 without explanation. Well this semester, I had record turnouts for the first day of class. I can’t say I had 0 absences, but very few. I think students crave being back in person to meet new people and gain a new experience.
The third change, for me, is not as positive as the first two. Actually, for some students it’s downright terrible. I have students emailing or texting to let me know they were exposed to Covid, have it or are in the hospital due to the complications from it. I think out of my 108 students, 3 or 4 have contacted me about Covid. Most have kept up on the out-of-class work but are missing the in-class learning. Interpersonal skills are important for success and happiness in my class and in the world, so I am worried about this. I am hoping that the ones who are out for a 2 week period will come back to class for the next 14 weeks.
Illinois’ governor has recently mandated that students and employees of the college show proof of vaccination or be tested for Covid at least once a week. The announcement that our college is going to enforce this has caused concern for some students, frustration for others and relief for others. I’m trying to listen to how students are feeling and going from there.
It’s been a challenge, but also fun being back.
Trying to keep my Peace Out (and In),