Coming together: soon-to-be teacher shares thoughts on pandemic


Connor Martin, Freelance Writer

I think I first remembered hearing about COVID-19 sometime in February. Something like it was just exploding over in China but pretty much was contained and then just the chaos in Italy. Regardless, both places were just experiencing crazy times. Nothing that I was ever going to have to worry about.

A couple of weeks after that, my hockey team lost out a little earlier than we hoped so it looked like the rest of my spring was going to be smooth-sailing leading up to graduation, and eventually finding a teaching job for the fall. But then, the news of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and Wisconsin started growing; universities started extending spring break or moving online; school districts across the country started moving to virtual learning; cities started shutting down.

I remember Marian closing campus for students but kept us student teachers in our classrooms. I remember thinking that was really weird, like somehow it was not safe for students to be on campus but still safe for us to be in a revolving classroom of kids (who don’t have the reputation for being the cleanest in the first place). Despite all of that, the whole thing never really seemed real to me.

Then the Wisconsin government moved to shut down all schools and move to virtual learning, and it started to hit me. Then, I found news of uncertainty with my licensure process to become an educator, which impacts my job search for the upcoming fall. At that point, it was real. Now, Wisconsin has enacted a safer-at-home declaration for 30 days, which means I have to somehow get a full student-teaching experience while now teaching entirely online. What crazy things a month of time can do. It will be interesting to see what the next 30 days hold.  

Well, that was my version of the narrative for how the last few weeks have unfolded. I know that there are many others of us in the greater Marian community that look far worse than that too. However, I was asked to write this about my feelings on this global pandemic we all are experiencing together, whether we want to or not. I was asked to give thoughts on how this affects my senior year of college. I was asked to reflect on how this affects my life. All of that said, I hope that some of what I write here can resonate with all of you in some way or another.  

First, I just want to touch on everything that us seniors are going to miss now that we know school is online for the rest of the semester and students are heading back home, if they are not there already.  

I am going to miss spending the last few weeks of college with the people who have helped make some of the best times of my life. I am going to miss celebrating the accomplishments of my peers in the athletic and academic fields, no Sammy’s or student recognition banquets. I am going to miss connecting with some of the professors who made great impacts on my education. I am going to miss seeing the staff who work so hard to make Marian’s campus as inviting as possible. I am going to miss saying goodbye’s and thank you’s to the Athletic Training Staff who have worked so hard to keep us athletes going. I am just going to miss walking around Marian’s campus in general.  

Most of all, we as seniors are going to miss walking across the stage with the people who have made these years so great. Sure, they might reschedule it, but it won’t be the same as it would have going right into it from the last day of classes.

Another part that hurts about the whole graduation ceremony is, for me, that all of the people who helped me get through all of my school will not get to share in the celebration. They all deserve just as much credit for that diploma as I do. That whole aspect seems to weigh heavier on me every day.  

Even with all of that bad, I keep trying to think of all the positives that can come from this time of isolation. First off, I keep thinking of all the time that most of us now have. I think about all of the times people would ask me, or I would ask them, how I am doing. My response 90% of the time – busy. 

Between hockey, school, friends, and trying to work, I had created a schedule that hardly gave me any time to breathe. Because of this shutdown, I have rediscovered some passions of mine. The first is just reading for pleasure, I am not sure how long it has been since I have had the opportunity to read a book for pleasure and not feel guilty about wasting time on it. I also rediscovered the power of a simple walk, especially when the weather is nice. There is so much peace and relaxation when I go for a walk that I hope to maintain this routine once this is all over.  

One of the next big positives that has shown through with all of this is the amount of technology we have available to us. Now, I would be the first one to admit being that grump who snarks “we are on our phones way too much,” but it has really been amazing to see the ways we can still connect with each other despite staying in our homes 90% of the time.

I have facetimed just about everyone I would normally talk to on a week-to-week basis. I have facetimed grandparents countless times already. I have even been part of a bible study group over Zoom. It’s crazy that we can stay in such easy contact without ever leaving our homes. Now, as a student-teacher, I’ve also had to teach via YouTube, Google Hangouts, Google Meets, and Zoom. While not the same, the fact that we can still maintain an active presence as teachers is outstanding.  

Finally, I think this pandemic has brought out some of the good in humanity that we have been missing lately. For years leading up to this event, the Internet has been crowded with negativity and partisan rhetoric. Because of the COVID-19, much of that has changed.

People are much more vocal about helping each other, whether they are making masks for hospitals that are short or sharing ideas about handling the isolation. Even the politicians seem to have come together in these trying times (albeit for the most part, some things will never fully change).

One of the most interesting discussions I have seen happening is the conversation around teaching during this time. A friend of mine added me to a Facebook group dedicated to teachers helping each other with distance learningIn this group, I have seen some really productive ideas, thoughts, and discussions that were not as easily accessible or communicated prior to the pandemic.  

In reality, this is a really, really tough situation for so many of us. Seniors, we probably drew one of the shorter straws outside of getting sick or loved ones getting sick. But the world will look back on this time and remember how we handled the moment. As for me, I am going to choose to rejoice in the trials because they help us build endurance, and endurance builds perseverance, perseverance builds strength in character, and a strong character builds on the hope that we can overcome. We will overcome all of these trials and emerge a stronger, better people on the other side.