The Professor’s Coping Mechanisms During the COVID-19 Pandemic
My 2020 happened in the blink of an eye.
I will never forget how the world was in commotion due to the rapid spread of (at that time, it was still called) Corona Virus.
Everything had to stop – establishments, institutions, and corporations – big or small. Everyone was forced to stay in their homes. While this could be a dream come true for those who need a break from their overwhelming responsibilities, this became a nightmare. COVID-19 shuddered the world.
In the Philippines, it was March 9, 2020 when Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno announced classes' cancellation. This was the start when a day turned into a week, into a month, a year, and then now.
Before the Mayor's announcement, our university tried to be prudent by posting several academic advisories for all of us - professors and students - to make necessary lesson adjustments and to be prepared for the 2-week class suspension, respectively. But still, everybody became unsettled when the pandemic thumped our country. This was pretty understandable because even governments in many countries were completely clueless for the right solution or techniques to combat “The Pandemic” that no one ever imagined. Indeed, this is such an unprecedented event in world history.
But life has to go on.
While millions of people felt powerless and crippled by the lockdown, they tried to find ways to get themselves going. They became social media police by immediately confronting, questioning, and reacting to political and medical posts about COVID-19. The others became instant bakers, plant lovers, movie maniacs, online business savvies, and so on.
Of course, I also kept myself productive. Oh well! I wanted to include “proactive” as it would sound good. But no, it is still more beautiful to be truthful. While I tried to make myself fecund even at home, my emotions inside our humble abode were like a wild spinning roller coaster. There were days and nights that I would cry myself to sleep. Who wouldn’t? Seeing COVID-19 victims suffering and dying, the number of cases going up every day, and many people losing jobs were just beyond devastating.
On the other hand, I also had cheerful and grateful moments for many reasons. I was especially thankful because I had more time to reflect and be in sync with myself. Alone time became more time to pray, meditate, forgive myself, and the list goes on.
The Beauty Behind the Beast
I did a few small personal projects to break the humdrum confinement at home. But let me save your time and allow me just to share my three major coping mechanisms to holistically survive the pandemic that might work for you, too:
1. Mingle with the Big People.
Ms. Amanda Ripley was the first big person I met during this pandemic. She was a very well-grounded and sensible woman. Her honesty and attention to detail were worthy of emulation. She was the one who introduced me to the three smartest students in the world, namely Eric, Tom, and Kim. They were just so fun and intense to be with. Hang in there! I will tell you more about them in my other article.
The next V.I.P. was Mr. Carmine Gallo. He was an illustrious storyteller. During our tête-à-tête, he told me stories about The Great Steve Jobs that I couldn’t get from any YouTube videos and Jobs Netflix movie. Moreover, he made me love Steve Jobs’ bestfriend - The Philanthropic Steve Wozniak.
Then, I met someone like my dad by the name of Mr. Mark Weber. I can say that he and my dad were both distinctly fashionable and principled men. I saw Mr. Weber's humility, sincerity, and determination. To boot, Mr. Weber became Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy USA's CEO and Donna Karan International's Chairman and CEO. Truly, it was such an insightful moment to be with him.
You’re probably thinking by now that I joined a MasterClass. Nope! Read a book? Yes, I am a non-fiction reader. Reading books to me is like having a fruitful conversation with the writers – about their lives or inspiring people they met along the way. I do not just listen (passively read); I converse with them by highlighting some lines and annotating. Sometimes, I take a photo of the books and treat them as if the writers are with me.
For all the book lovers, I am sure you can relate with me that every time we read – the time stops, and every word and character from the book comes alive. For us, reading books is beyond magical; it's bathing our soul.
This was my first major way to cope during the first wave. In two months' time, I was able to read seven books. Four of them I bought from the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale last February 24, 2020. How lucky, right? Before the pandemic, I was able to keep such treasures that gave me extra company during the lockdown.
LESSON: Investing in good books is as priceless as investing in great friends.
2. Take something with a grain of salt.
Many teachers had to undergo extensive online training for the new norm in the education setup. I, on the other hand, can confidently explore and work on our Learning Management System (LMS) by myself. This was because, prior to the pandemic, our university headed by the Academic Support for Instructional Services and Technology (ASIST) provided several seminar-workshops on it. I attended these because I wanted to learn and know the latest trends in the classroom teaching format. Who would ever think that I would immediately have the practical test of pinching salt?
LESSON: Learn something new even though you think you won’t need it yet.
Besides exploring and understanding our LMS, I was equally preoccupied with redesigning all my lessons according to my students' year level (Oh, by the way, I teach high school, college, and graduate students). I pulled an all-nighter to make sure that activities would be interactive, interesting, and considerate. More than anything else, the online lessons should be effective and humanistic. I had to make sure that my students would be motivated to wake up and attend my class at their homes in front of their laptops, or at least they won’t feel indifferent. That was the biggest challenge!
Because during the early months, many people were refuting the effectiveness of Online Distance Learning (ODL). This “new school norm” can be impenetrable. Since this was still considered an avant-garde, I had to learn and unlearn some teaching strategies. It was such a heavy load to take, but I embraced it akin to playing a game – I had to be strategic; more than anything else, I had to enjoy it as if I was playing an online game (say, Mobile Legend or Call of Duty). Just like any game, I had to play hard, but I should not take it personally.
Our first full plunge to ODL was last June. I must say that despite the two-month academic break to assess the pandemic situation, there was still news about students and parents being reluctant to ODL. But all of us had to face the music.
On my end, I had to remind myself that more than teaching a subject, I'm molding lives. Every day, every meeting, and every message I received from my students, I had to be keen and astute because most of the students were biting the bullet. No one wanted to be confined to their homes for several months (and now almost a year). Subsequently, my issues had to be set aside because my primary concern has always been my students.
The first term ended successfully. After a few weeks, I received the written evaluations stating that I got outstanding appraisals from my students for qualitative and quantitative measurements. A lot of my students were thankful for cultivating a learning environment that instilled genuine camaraderie and interest. Some of them even sent me email letters expressing their appreciation and delight. While it was morally compensating to read my students’ endearing comments, I should not forget to address my four students' concerns. So, that next term, I'll be much better.
Out of my 31 students, one student wrote that the requirements were too much for her/him. While in the other class, three students wrote down that I did not reply to their messages.
Although this can be considered an isolated case, in my class, “everybody is important” and “no one must be left behind”. Therefore, to be a better teacher for the next term (October 2020), I suggested a more practical number and distribution of activities to our Teaching Team so that students will not feel deluge with school works and can be proactive. Regarding the reply, to make my students well informed, I frequently announced during synchronous classes that despite the bulk of emails I received every day, I replied to all their messages. If I did not answer, that means I did not receive it. Thereby, I requested them to recall my attention so that I can respond to their concerns.
Concurrently, I educated my students to be more compassionate towards themselves and others (especially their teachers). Also, I told them to be more transparent regarding their feelings and assessments because this could help our partnership as teachers and students.
In this time of the pandemic, our only hope is one another.
Lesson: You're not perfect; you're human! Celebrate it!
3. Constant chat with a wise woman.
My best friend.