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If I Could Have a Do-Over

[By Anonymous, a Student]

Don't hate me, but when I heard we had an extra week of break I was psyched. It did not sink in at first.

After I read the pages of emails and instructions though I started to feel desperate. How was I going to make it through this semester? It looked like so much more work now. The instructions were so complicated, except for one class where they seemed too easy. (They weren't but it seemed like it.)

Every class was dealing with it differently. One teacher still had us meeting during our class times, and would be taking attendance. But then some people couldn't connect. Or they could only listen, but couldn't participate because their reception was not good. People looked funny, or sounded choppy, and they would freeze up. The professor didn't seem as interesting as before, and I blame the two-dimension image and the bad sound for that, because his had been a class I really looked forward to before.

Another teacher had the class completely asynchronous so we could work when it was convenient for us, which was explained in our instructions would mean we never met together at all any more. That was fine, but I learned that this kind of learning is not very motivating for me. There were a lot of quizzes, so I guess I was showing that I had done the reading and the assignments, but the interesting conversations that used to get started in class were now completely gone. This was a class where the teacher's professional experiences outside the classroom were actually really relevant, and brought some spice to the in-class meetings, and now that was totally gone.

In every class, I could tell there were students who just disappeared. That is always true. I know that. But to me it seemed like more people who were not present doing the work. Or maybe I was just more worried because they could be sick. And this year's "sick" is a scarier sick than any of the ones I have been aware of in my life before.

Teachers and the helpline were good about answering email when I had a question or a problem, but that doesn't feel like "individual attention" the way a smile does, or when they are listening to your question live and you watch them take it in and think about it, then answer. Also, sometimes in class I could tell that other people were glad the question got asked. Sometimes someone else would ask another question because of the question I had asked. Or sometimes someone wrote down part of the teacher's answer. I never realized how much that could imprint the material on me or get me thinking.

If I were doing this over, the first thing I would do is scream, "Noooooo!" when I read that first news saying we would have to finish the semester online. I would be less afraid of the virus now and more afraid of the loneliness and how boring life was going to be. And I think I would ask my teachers to please meet at least a little bit in person, with Zoom or whatever.

And I would ask my fellow students to turn on their cameras so we could see each other more. If I had known that there were some of them I would never see again, when we left for spring break, I would have hugged some people goodbye. I would have said, "Stay safe," and "Good luck!" I would have shared my social media contact information with some people I liked but hadn't really made an effort to connect with outside of class, assuming we had lots more time.

Well now I know. I might have complained on Monday mornings just like anyone else, but it turns out that I like being with other people. I like learning in a group more than trying to do it alone. I like seeing faces. And hearing voices. I miss you, guys.

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