Dr. Annie White, Assistant Professor of Education, Early Childhood Studies
California State University Channel Islands, USA
I have been impacted by COVID-19 in several ways. As a university instructor, abruptly, I lost all face to face contact with students to embark on a new journey with weekly online Zoom class meetings.
It has been tricky to hold space and still deliver academic content for the students' who have faced so many challenges. I have tried to find the fulcrum as I have endeavored to balance listening, caring, providing resources, all while trying to humanize online instruction.
The space between my lap top screen and their device feels so far away. I have had students who have lost housing, living in their car yet, show up for our online class from their vehicle in a parking lot so they could access free wifi. I have had students who have lost jobs, unable to buy food, or lacked appropriate devices to be able to complete their school work, or didn't have internet and sat on the porch of a neighbor's house who graciously allowed them to access their wifi so they could attend online classes.
Sharing a little of Aotearoa New Zealand in their zoom meeting
Every time a student doesn't show up for the weekly online class, a sense of fear overwhelms me. For each response reveals burdens, struggles, sickness and sometimes death. When these students do not show up for the scheduled weekly online Zoom class, I reach out with persistence (maybe a little like stalking) through email and text to see if they need support. I found out one student didn't show up to our online class because they had been in the ICU for 5 days on a ventilator. And yet, the following week, their face was shining bright across the screen. The student's father walked into her bedroom during our Zoom class, and in front of all the other students, with tears in his eyes, thanked me for calling and checking up on his daughter, as it showed how much I cared as a professor. I have had several students lose grandparents and relatives to COVID -19. And so many more afraid for the health and well being of their families and friends.
Annie White, Brenda Soutar and Wendy Lee at the California State University Channel Islands
Yet, with all the uncertainties we face for the future of higher education, I have found a deep sense of gratitude for my university, colleagues, students and community. I have seen my university provide resources for students who are in financial need. For example, I was able to refer the student who was living in their car to the university CARES team who was able to provide funds for the student to get stable housing. Others have accessed funds to purchase food, pay utilities, etc. Also, I have seen students give back by serving their community online through answering emergency hotline phones, reading books to children, translating text into multiple languages, calling elderly who are alone, and so many more ways. It has made me proud to be a part of something greater than myself.