Fall 2020 is like no other academic year we have experienced.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges that impact our institutions, our lives, our teaching, and the lives of our students. Simply put, we are in a time of disruption – both personally and professionally.
I started this blog with the goal of sharing my work in the classroom with others. My hope is to make teaching a little less stressful and a little more fun, all while helping our students prepare to be ethical and excellent professional communicators.
Like many of you, I spent much of this summer reflecting on deep questions. I spent a good deal of that time preparing for the academic year ahead and coming to terms with what can be controlled and what cannot be. But I also spent a good deal of that time making sure to cherish and enjoy the present moment.
We are in a time of revaluation. We are in a time where our compassion and humanity are our greatest assets.
On this blog, I have generally started each semester by providing sample syllabi from my classes in a series I call “What’s Changing?” But this year, with things being so different, I want to start the semester with something so very different. I am going to go out on a limb and hope that this post offers a reminder that is of some help to you, my friends and fellow educators.
As folks working in education, we are facing and will continue to face difficult challenges this year. So, in keeping with some of my goals of this blog – to make teaching a little less stressful and to make your life a little easier – below I will simply share some thoughts and a few resources that I hope will help:
First, you are good enough. You are awesome. Teaching online, teaching in person, teaching hybrid, teaching both online and in person simultaneously, and the various other approaches that we are trying this year will be novel, exciting and challenging, but also overwhelming and exhausting. Universities may shift from in person to online sometime during the semester, as several already have. Worrying about the health and well-being of our loved ones, our students and our colleagues will take a toll on us. There will be days where we will all feel that we have not done enough or that we have failed.
It is okay to feel overwhelmed. It is okay to not be perfect. Accept what is. Work with what is and not against it. You are good enough. You are awesome.
You are an excellent educator, scholar, mentor, colleague, advisor, advocate, ambassador, committee member, reviewer, author, family member, community member, friend, partner, neighbor, and human being. You are excellent simply as you are. You care and that makes you excellent. Mistakes do not make us not excellent. They make us human. Needing time to recover does not make us weak. It makes us human. You are doing a lot for so many others. Be kind to yourself. You are awesome.
Be kind to your colleagues, your students, and your loved ones. I have heard many times the phrase that there is no template for what we are facing in higher education today. That may be true. But I think some key ingredients for making it through these times are: understanding, compassion, kindness, patience, and care – both for others and ourselves.
Anxieties are high. Uncertainty is high. You are not your thoughts.
Smile. Take a breath.
You are good enough. You are awesome.
Mindfulness has gained a lot of attention in recent years. In fact, Journal of Public Relations Education just published a study by Douglas Swanson on mindfulness and public relations students and practitioners. This article by Big Think discusses meditation and how it changes our brain. Perhaps both ourselves and our students could benefit now more than ever.
While there are several paid meditation and mindfulness apps, there are also many with tons of free content. Medito is entirely free and non-profit driven. Insight Timer offers a lot of free content, including both guiding meditations and calming music (side note: Calming music + True wireless earbuds hooked up to a smartphone or laptop = great while working from home amid the distractions that abound) .
Stoic philosophy has gained a great deal of attention, particularly among the tech world. Some find it helpful in dealing with adversity. While there are many resources, YouTube pages, and apps for Stoic philosophy, I have always found On Groundless Fears by Seneca an excellent monthly read to help curb unnecessary worry.
This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg. A quick Google search will produce many more resources. While the above resources may or may not be for you, I hope the general message of this post resonates.
I’ve always believed that education is really about helping people. Perhaps as educators, we could do more to include ourselves and each other in that.
We will all be different educators and people as a result of this pandemic. Reflection and revaluation help us grow and find new strengths. These new strengths help more than ourselves. We can model personal growth and character for our students as they too face uncertainty, worry, and the tragedy that has come with this pandemic. They look to us.
Whatever your motivation for doing so and whatever your path for doing so, take time to care of yourself – not only during this semester, but in the many to come.
Have a safe semester. You are awesome.