This business professor is officially on summer break! It’s been a looooong year teaching my classes online and via Zoom and I’m excited for the r&r.
It’s been a hard year too. I’ve missed the face-to-face energy of my students, the steps I’d get walking through campus as I admired the palm trees swaying in the Tampa sun. I’ve missed the café and their tasty soups; I’ve missed walking out of my office and eating a fresh cooked meal within minutes. Dang, it used to be so easy!
There’s a million ways I could wrap up my thoughts on teaching during a pandemic with a perfectly tied bow and a powerful learning lesson, but it feels more authentic and true to keep my reflections open. There were hard parts and there were light parts, and I’m still trying to make sense of them both. Perhaps the lesson is, I’ve accepted the dark and the light and allowed them to coexist, not rushing to find some reason for it all. Instead, I’m acknowledging the truth: the last year as a professor was heavy and I’m allowing my take-aways from the last year to unfold.
Some fast facts: student enrollment was lower than usual, student engagement felt lower than usual, my engagement was much lower than usual. Although there were rough patches, somewhere in the mess I found and created bright moments. A wide variety of my business friends came into my virtual classes to spice things up, sharing their knowledge and life lessons, giving me a much-needed break and dose of inspiration. And although I haven’t perfected my time management, self-discipline and organizational skills (and probably never will), working from home has allowed me to sharpen them.
Working from home was a whole new adventure (and not one I’d particularly choose to embark on, but here we are!). I’ve been glued to my computer more than I’d like to admit, been more sedentary than I’d like to admit, and I’ve eaten more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than I can count (I don’t even make my own sammies… I devour the pre-made ones – Uncrustables – that I steal from my 11-year-old niece).
Crust-less sammies aside, darkness, lightness, shadows of doubts and beacons of hope all mixed together throughout this unique chapter of my life. But this summer, I’ll focus on moving forward, recharging and prepping for my fall classes. I’ll continue to reflect so that I take with me the wisdom and perseverance from the last year while dropping what no longer serves me.
I’ll be teaching face-to-face, but differently than I have in the past. I’ll have a limited number of students allowed in the classroom (about 12 as opposed to 30), everyone will wear a mask, and I’ll have a camera on me at all times so students can Zoom into the lecture from home if they so choose. But, I’ll have the in-person smiles of my students, and I’ll finally be able to feel the vibration of their laughter when I crack a joke that wasn’t really funny, but they are nice and so they’ll chuckle anyways. I’ll be able to eat my minestrone soup at an outside table while the palm trees dance in the light breeze and the sun keeps my soup warm. And I’ll get my steps in.
In closing, as I think about Dr. Clark going back to campus, I have no doubt the fall will bring highs and lows and I’m honored to experience them all, for experiencing is what makes us human.
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PS – Here’s the opening of the Serenity Prayer to help you accept what is while continuing to improve upon yourself and life, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
PPS – Have you taken time recently to reflect on your experiences during the pandemic now that we are slowly moving towards post-pandemic? If not, now may be a good time. Grab your journal and a pen. Narrow down your reflections by focusing on an aspect of who you’ve been throughout the pandemic. Perhaps you’ve been a student, daughter, father, artist, or manager. In this role, what shifted for you? What changes have you enjoyed? What differences have made you sour? Have you made discoveries about yourself? Or about your role? See if you can let your feelings and insights flow without structure. Try and let the light and dark coexist without having to make perfect meaning out of what you experienced.