Well, we did it. We finally made it to the end of one heck of a semester.
My never-ending to-do list of assignments is finally reaching an end. As such, I’ve been taking stock of all the columns I’ve written over the past fourteen weeks, and I’ve decided it might be time to follow up on some of the topics.
I started off the semester discussing at what ends we were coming back to campus. It was scary fourteen weeks ago. There were so many rules put in place, and, though we should have all been upholding them, there was a constant thought stream of “who might see and report me?” if you ever slipped up on one of the protocols.
As the semester has work on, we’ve all settled a bit into the expectations put in place for us. While there’s still the fear of who-might-get-me-in-trouble, it seems the keelhauling nature of perpetual assignments placed our initial panic elsewhere.
The past few weeks have presented a new reason to worry. As we all became a but more comfortable around one another, protocols slipped. We get emails notifying us that more members have had COVID-19 tests come back positive nearly every day. The number of positive cases in the past two weeks overshadows the total number from all of the weeks prior.
This is serious stuff. Last week we got the order that we would be entering a “Quiet Phase” in which all meetings and activities had to be moved online or cancelled altogether to lessen the amount of time students would have together in which they could be unwittingly spreading the virus. For many of us, the now too familiar COVID-19 notice emails and the entrance into this phase are the scariest parts of the semester.
It’s anyone guess what will be happening next semester. Will we come back in January as planned? Will we get access to the vaccine that scientists have been working on developing for months? Who will end up staying home instead of coming to campus?
I wish I had answers to these questions. From our very first days on campus as first-years, we are taught to ask questions and to explore answers. As a senior now, I see how many of my peers internalized that lesson (some more subconsciously than others). Not only do we question our professors to gain the most utile information form our classes, but we also learn how to adapt to the college environment and all it encompasses. We ask questions. We do our work. But these questions are proving to be rather unanswerable. How odd it is to catch the pitfalls of our first collegiate lessons and be made to relearn how to operate.
Another topic I have been mulling over is that of professors. I penned a piece a few months ago about professors who do not show respect toward their students and that, as young adults, students have developed more objective judgements upon whom most deserves their respect. I stand by everything I stated in that article. However, I have realized that I failed to recognize all of the diligent professors who do upstanding work for their students and want what is best for both their profession and their students.
Though the negative classes can sometimes be more memorable, there are plenty of professors who create positive and impactful moments for their students. Regardless of the craziness happening in their own lives, or the hecticness of trying to juggle teaching students online and in-person simultaneously, some professors have truly stood up and stood out this semester. There are some professors who are scared to risk their health but understand the value of learning in-person, thus deciding to put their students’ needs before their own and show up to campus each day to teach. There are other professors who teach online but never cease to check in on their students’ needs and mental health.
Plenty of professors are always encouraging toward their students. I don’t know if they are being more encouraging this semester or if their remarks are more personally significant this semester, but it seems that the truly stellar professors have a knack for saying the right thing at the right time. These types of professors are all gems and we are lucky to have them. It is my sincerest hope that everyone remains in good health and can look toward these professors, these beacons, who care in the utmost regard for their students, during these times.
Coming back this semester may have been a mistake. Or, maybe it kept us safer than we would have been had we stayed home. It’s impossible to say, really, but I guarantee regardless of the answer, one thing remains true: this semester has been one like no other, one that we will remember and can attest to when children generations away study this in history class someday, and one that we have learned from immensely.
Perhaps these silver linings are coming to me because I’m going into my last semester of my undergrad years. Or maybe it’s simply time that we see some positivity in our news and entertainment outlets. I’m really not sure. What I’m sure of is that the end of the semester is near, but so many beginnings are coming up just as quickly.