Tuesday 24 March 2020

Bent But Not Broken

It will come as no surprise to anyone that this spring has not turned out at all like we believed or hoped that it would. As my blog would be the millionth-and-oneish published source about coronavirus disease (COVID-19), I will not attempt to detail any past frustrations, current fears, or future predictions, as they are all so fluid they could change by the time I have finished this post anyway. Instead, I will give an update on what life has looked like within our walls and refer any reader to the World Health Organization's website for the most current, reputable information.

As I was on maternity leave for one third of the fall semester, I was looking forward to a more normal spring semester; however, that has not been the case. Academically, the first eight weeks went by pretty smoothly before the virus roadblocked the second half of the semester. Olivet has moved all classes online for the remainder of the semester. I feel lucky that the impact for me was minimal, but it has been a big adjustment for both my students and my colleagues. My students have had to leave campus, travel home, and then try to figure out a new normal from there. I do feel for each of them as they have been thrown into these sudden changes, but my heart breaks for my senior students who will not be able to finish their college careers on campus with their friends. That being said, I know my students have shown great resilience, and there are many sweet and inspiring stories emerging from around the world as we collectively grapple with our current human condition.

I have been continuously impressed with the work ethic, communication, and dedication of my students in their course work this semester. I am currently teaching a ENGL 210: College Writing II with 54 students and ENGL 329: Writing Fiction and Poetry with 12 students. The work that my students have composed and produced this semester is really on the next level. My 210 students just submitted plans for conducting primary research, and I am excited by their ideas to do personal observations, interview family members, survey their friends, or analyze existing interviews or data sets. My 329 students are submitting very original and compelling fiction and poetry work. I've been impressed by their ability to dive into their created worlds and bring the reader along with them. My students have really taken these changes in stride, and I'm proud of the work they have done.

In addition to my teaching work, I have been working to prepare for the full launch of the new writing major! I'm really excited for this opportunity for our current English students, as well as a way to draw other majors to our department through a double major. Through a set up of new course and internship offerings, I think our students will have access to a lot of great material and experiences. Happy to have been able to work towards this end. Wade, Coco, and I were able to make the trip down to Olivet at the beginning of the semester. I met with my 210 students in large groups, I met individually with my 329 students, and I was able to touch base in person with my department chair on the work we are doing this semester as I continue to help create materials and plans for the writing program.

Though I totally agree with the decision, I was very disappointed that CCCC 2020 in Milwaukee, WI was canceled for this year. I would have been traveling down to Milwaukee today, and I'm sad to not be able to see my friends or grow from the knowledge sharing and energy production that each conference brings. I also will not be traveling down to Olivet for our departmental workshop dates in April, as the workshops have also been canceled. One bright spot of the semester, though, was that my article "Food Memoirs: Agency in Public and Private Domains" was published in the fall 2019/ winter 2020 edition of Peitho. It was really rewarding to see my work finally in print, and I'm glad to be counted among the authors published in Peitho. Would love for you to check out the article!

Looking ahead, the landscape is somewhat foggy. I don't know what this spring or summer will bring, so we are just trying to enjoy our days at home. Wade and I are both working fully remotely, and we have the cutest six-month old baby and two sweetest doggos as co-workers. We take fun lunch breaks, walk outside, and drive through the country together. We have dance parties in the kitchen, listen to episodes of Armchair Expert, and bake a lot of treats. We cuddle up in bed on Saturday mornings, grill out on the deck, and watch episodes of Schitt's Creek on our laptop. Life is very, very complicated outside for many, including some of our close friends and family members, but we are counting our blessings that we are safe and can spend simple and sweet days together.

Keep calm, friends, and carry on. 

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