It Might Just Come True: Pandemic Thanks and Misses
It’s 7:15 am, and I’m already in a frenzy. I’m dashing out of the house and randomly grabbing everything I see on my desk and shoving it into my backpack: flask, markers, AUC ID, and … I’m sure I’m forgetting something which I have absolutely no time or will to remember.
It isn’t always that crazy, but I overslept today, and hence the ensuing rush.
It’s 8:20. Phew! I’m finally out of the house and in my car. I should be on campus in an hour. Perfect! That was close, but there’s no need to panic. I can relax now. But just when I thought I’d make it in time for my 8:30 class, I get stuck in that dreaded jam on the Ring Road! Great!
It is then that I find myself wishing I didn’t have to commute from Manyal to New Cairo twice a week. Why couldn’t I work from home, like many of my corporate friends! Little did I know that my wish would come true a week later. I, of all people, should know to be careful what I wish for—but that’s a whole other story.
A week later, we’re on our way home from campus on March 11th, and the next thing we know, we’re on lockdown! The Spring Break is preponed, and two weeks later, we move to online instruction. The world as we know it is over.
But despite the initial reluctance to embrace online teaching, I’d like to think that the online teaching experience wasn’t all bad. When the dust settled, I actually realized that I ended up enjoying teaching online, quite surprisingly. I mean, after all, I did get what I wished for.
Yes, there are things I miss: I miss the hum of the indistinct chatter of students in the background as I take attendance, the stable Internet connection on campus, the stifled laugh of a student who’s checking out their Instagram feed when they think I’m not paying attention, CTMS swooping in to save the day 3 minutes after I call them, tripping over my students’ backpacks as I walk around the room to help them with an activity, and the sight of students huddling around the same laptop to finish a group quiz. And I believe we all got to learn the hard way that nothing beats human interaction. Talking to a screen is not as easy as it seems. Let’s just say, I have newfound respect for radio show hosts. That feeling you get when you’re (physically in the same room) with the students is unparalleled. The energy, the vibes, and the faces are what keep us going, and that’s what I miss the most.
But still, more than ever now, I am grateful for the little things: not having to wake up 3 hours before class time, being able to be with my family literally the minute I finish class, not missing class even when I’m feeling under the weather, muting myself just as I’m about to sneeze, tech-savvy students who help me fix the Zoom glitches I run into and those who get up, show up and bring their A-game to class every single day even when they feel robbed of their first-year experience, the serenity venting on WhatsApp groups creates among students, never missing the bus to campus, not noticing when my students are busy scrolling down their newsfeed as I share my screen, and, most importantly, I am grateful I can never get stuck in traffic on my way to work.
And most of all, I am grateful for us: AUC, the Department of Rhetoric and Composition, the Center for Learning and Teaching, our professors, instructors, and staff. Never in my life had I felt more supported and comfortable like I did when transitioning to online teaching. We would not have survived had it not been for the training sessions, resources, documents, tips, and activities shared among us. It is that sense of camaraderie that helped keep us going, knowing that we are in the same boat, that someone has our back, that someone is listening and willing to lend a hand.
I guess what I’ve learned the most is that nothing will ever go as planned. We definitely didn’t see that one coming. We simply have to roll with it and hope for the best. So, let’s hope we can all go back to campus sooner rather than later, but at least now we know we are prepared for the worst-case scenario.