Bringing the Best
My throat tightened as I walked out of the conference room. It was March 2020, and the Provost had just told us the College would be moving to remote operations for the next few weeks. We all knew it would probably last for the semester. And we had no idea when we’d be back, if at all – the pandemic had already started interfering with recruitment for the following year.
I wasn’t surprised by the announcement, but I was worried, and frankly, sad. I had three very strong classes of students that semester, and classroom debates had been especially lively as we wrapped up a unit on Virgil’s Aeneid. Despite the piles of grading and several looming writing deadlines, I often walked out of class thinking of the old expression that if you to choose a career you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
The transition to remote classes wasn’t easy, but the students impressed. They were patient when I had to pivot to a new videoconferencing platform one morning when our usual one went down, learned to share my screen, and figured out how to create breakout rooms. They gamely wrote their papers and took their exams online. And every single student who was passing one of my classes in February passed in May – a number with well-deserved A’s.
As the pandemic lingered on, their resilience strengthened. Fall 2020-Spring 2021 was the season of now-infamous hybrid teaching. In the classroom, some of the students were on a big screen and some were in person; once a week, all of us were together on Zoom. Despite the disruption and constant reminders of all that was wrong, they wrote fascinating, professional-grade Op-Eds and dove into the most difficult literary texts. As had always been the case, but under much more challenging circumstances, their investment created a positive cycle inspiring everyone to keep bringing their best, faculty included.
Classroom teaching has felt “normal” for awhile now, but I’ve never stopped being impressed by what these students can do and how ready they are to grow and adapt. So many have proven their ability to care for each other and learn from each other in new ways, even when they disagree, shaped perhaps by a sense of shared trials.
Three years after Covid first swept through, I’m grateful every day that I get to teach and study what I love with these people and in this environment. It’s a space that has never stopped finding ways to sharpen my mind and my soul. While I know our resilience will be there for whatever lies ahead, I relish every day I get to be part of the King’s community.
Kelly Lehtonen
Assistant Professor of English and Writing | The King's College | Serving Since 2018
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