Back to Campus (Finally!)

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For me, the return to campus after nearly two full years (summer and winter sessions included) of remote teaching has been exciting and somewhat turbulent. 


While the students are reacclimating to long-standing classroom practices (shutting off cell phones) and adapting to pandemic-related protocols (wearing a mask in class), I’m thrilled to hear my colleague lecturing in the classroom next door. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm of students who are happy to be back in the physical classroom. There seems to be an unspoken joy amongst teachers and students who relish once again being part of a group. 


In spite of it being my fifteenth year of teaching at the same campus, however, I can’t seem to remember which classroom to go to at 10am on Tuesdays. Twice I have impatiently waited in the hallway outside the wrong room wondering why the students were not vacating the space only to discover that the problem was entirely me. And I find myself struggling with my classroom confidence. After so much time without live human beings in front of me, I’m feeling very self-conscious. Can they hear me through the mask? Can they read my handwriting on the board? Am I talking too fast? Am I talking too loudly? These thoughts rattle through my mind as I try my best to keep students' attention on the course content. 


Mostly, however, I’m worried about what has been lost by the students over the past two years. At a community college the concept of preparedness and how to overcome gaps in students’ K-12 experiences is under constant discussion. The pandemic has made the challenges we have always faced even more dire and I’m making changes to my syllabus on the fly to adapt to what I perceive as students’ immediate needs. 


This week, for example, I’m thinking a lot about note taking in advance of the first exam. I’ve distributed a study guide and asked students to bring all of their notes to class tomorrow in hopes that we can identify deficiencies before they spend the weekend engaged in studying. I’m hopeful that by completing practice questions in small groups we can model the upcoming in-class, timed exam experience that some of my students have never experienced at the college level.


Stay tuned!  

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About the Author
Suzanne K. McCormack, PhD, is Professor of History at the Community College of Rhode Island where she teaches US History, Black History and Women's History. She received her BA from Wheaton College (Massachusetts), and her MA and PhD from Boston College. She is currently at work on a study of the treatment of women with mental illness in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Massachusetts and Rhode Island.