Just as Spring Quarter 2020 classes started, I was asked to write a piece for American Ethnologist on teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m grateful for the prompt, as it gave me an opportunity to reflect on what I was about to do–start teaching university seminars online for the first time in my life. The result was published on their website on April 2nd, the same day I began teaching the classes documented on this blog.
These are unprecedented times we are living in, dear students. Although I have been teaching at Kalamazoo College since the 2010-2011 academic year, this is the first time I have ever taught my courses online. In fact, this Spring 2020 term is the first time I have ever taught any classes online. Likewise, many of you have probably never taken an online course before. It’s bound to be a difficult adjustment, especially since it’s happening at the same time as the largest and deadliest pandemic humanity has experienced in the last 100 years.
Given these unusual circumstances, our path is bound to be bumpy, uncomfortable, messy, difficult, and beset with worry, anxiety, grief, and troubles. Let’s set off with the intention to be gentle with ourselves and each other. Gentler than we ever have been before.
Since the course is being taught for credit/no credit instead of letter grade, please focus on your ability to learn and canalize information, instead of on what you can achieve in the traditional academic sense. It will be important for us to remain flexible, for what we are going to do this quarter is not just take our class online, but actually re-learn how to learn, or learn how to learn in a different way. I will also be learning with you how to teach in a different way. Let’s see how gentle we can be with each other and how much grace we can afford the learning process, so that instead of pushing we are yielding, we are letting the world, the pandemic, and the flow of ideas exchanged between us take us organically along our path. I’m looking forward to it! If you haven’t seen it already, here’s my welcome video that I recorded just for you: