From “eh” to “ah” (and “aww” and awe)

I had limited time in the fall semester to write. I feel like I made it through the fall semester with the skin of my teeth, whatever that means. I had no desire to write over our very short break (winter graduation on Dec 17, classes began Jan 5) and then the semester started virtually and I have been very “eh” about it. Thankfully, we resume in person learning next week. (Also thankfully, we have good vaccination rates and a mask mandate on campus.)

I zoomed the first few classes, but given that today many students were making their way back to campus from various places across the country, I had my 3 classes today be asynchronous. Each of these involved a discussion board as well as an individual submission of a small assignment. I read the discussion board for one of the classes tonight and went from “eh” to “ah” to “aww” and awe in the space of an hour.

I took this picture on the campus of Queens University in Belfast, where we were when the world turned upside down in March 2020. I don’t know anything else about it, sadly, but it mirrored my feelings that day.

This is a class focused on understanding human behavior and development in the lifespan. We spend the first few weeks setting the stage talking about the effects of “big picture” things like how culture and economy and politics and other aspects of our social and physical environments affect us. We also talk about the interplay of the systems within us (biological, psychological, social and spiritual). I got through the key content in our zoom on Tuesday, so for the discussion board I asked them to respond to one of a selection of scenarios or application questions. I offered a range of choices, so that people could choose to share as much or as little about themselves as they felt comfortable doing so. And, I did not require peer responses (as I normally would if this were a fully online class).

They have until midnight tonight to respond, so I haven’t read all of them, but when I looked at the board a couple of hours ago 19 out of 24 had already responded. Their reflections/responses to the questions and what they chose to share were a whole range of things. They were processing alot of grief about the pandemic, about their first experiences with losing a loved one; they were sharing about their struggles with spirituality and faith. They shared about their fears of disappointing people. They shared about loneliness. They also shared happy moments, some big wins and some brushes with fame and the joy of seeing people that they hadn’t been able to see in awhile.

Eh: I don’t like teaching on a screen. Zoom fatigue is real.

Ah: People are often hungry for space to share. I need to remember that.

Aww: I can still be authentically surprised and encouraged, even after 15 years of teaching.

Awe: People are complicated. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and we (most of us) have issues. We also have a lot of depth for compassion. One of my students said she didn’t have faith, per se, but she believed we all had a part in “righting the universe” through our service to others.

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