As I write this blog post, my institution is about to complete 40% of the semester (not that I am calculating!). Before the semester began, we put into protocols, gathered our PPE, and started the task of trying to create some normalcy for our students.
At the same time, I sent my own kid off to college with a mask and wipes and a stern warning about following the rules, and then prayed that despite the abnormal circumstances he would have some sort of first-year college experience.
And I can say at this moment, to borrow the title of a documentary about the Who, “The kids are alright.” And to some degree the adults are, too.
How can I say this? Well, first, I have to admit that my bar was low even though my expectations for what I could do for students were high. I decided that if we just all stay connected and able to move forward, then we were winning. Well, we are doing that…and then some.
So, how are our students doing? Here’s the unvarnished truth as told to me by my students (and my kid):
- They love being in college. Whether they are online or mask-to-mask, they are genuinely happy to be out of high school. Even if they are taking classes at home, they love the freedom of scheduling their day.
- They are learning how to manage their time. No, really. Usually by this time in a (normal) semester, they struggle with time management. They procrastinate. They forget to do work. Yes, there is still some of that, but more of them are pleased with themselves for creating a schedule and managing it well. I credit the fact that their professors are probably more conscientious with the organization of their classes and are communicating more frequently with their students, but I also credit the students who came into this semester with eyes wide open.
- They are taking precautions, at least in the classroom. I have not heard about any student who has refused to wear a mask or distance or clean their surfaces in the classroom. Now, what they are doing on their own time may be less vigilant, but I am pleased that they are able to follow precautions when they are in class.
- They are asking for help. Maybe more accurately, they are answering professor’s emails about needing help. Again, in a (normal) semester, they would wait until the end of the semester to reach out if they need something. Now, they are asking for clarification, troubleshooting of technology, and questions about how they can do better.
Our students are doing alright. Do they wish they could make friends more easily and less awkwardly? Who doesn’t? Do they wish there was more going on around campus that doesn’t have to be socially distanced? Of course. But at this point in the semester, I can say with some confidence that I think they are going get through this. And they may find that this semester is a defining moment for them, one in which they realized they were braver and stronger than they had imagined.