I was looking forward to my admittedly non-exciting spring break plans: grading, editing an article, cleaning up my hard drive. My plan was shattered, however, when I got the call from Academic Affairs—a call echoed and answered across campus. Due to COVID-19, Trinity was moving to remote synchronous learning for the remainder of Spring 2020; in my capacity as assistant director for the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching, I was to help assist our faculty and teaching staff with this critical transition.
The following seven days were a mad dash of dawn-to-dusk work. It was the liberal arts version of Rocky—our own “Eye of the (Trinity) Tiger” montage. Colleagues from Academic Affairs, Information Technology Services, Strategic Communications and Marketing, and—of course—The Collaborative divided, shared, and tackled more tasks than we could count. There were meetings…and then meetings about those meetings. With the help of others, I created a “Keep Teaching” website, a process that involved consulting hundreds of websites, identifying best remote teaching practices, and then converting these insights into an easily-digestible, web-ready, Trinity-specific form.
Too soon, the final weekend of spring “break” was upon me. The website was going live Monday morning no matter what, and I still needed to prepare for dozens of training sessions. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Friday evening the inevitable happened: I had a panic attack. I worried I was going to let everyone down. I feared I would not finish everything on time. I burst into tears. This wasn’t a gentle cascade down my cheeks, but rather the head-thrown-back outburst of a small child needing a nap. My partner—who knew these tears well from my dissertating days—proved to be my rock. Encouraging words, hugs, food, and a scary movie (my go-to as a horror scholar) calmed me enough to sleep. The next two days were grueling, but every time I neared my breaking point, someone would jump in and give me precious hours of their weekend to ensure that everything was ready in time. As I staggered into the office that Monday morning, with a packed week of trainings looming ahead, several truths became self-evident:
- All-nighters are a young person’s game.
- Murphy’s Law guarantees that the University president and vice president of Academic Affairs will attend the trainings you are most stressed out about leading.
- Ultimate kindness often comes in the form of a highly caffeinated drink shoved into your hands.
Much has happened between that week and now. Many people are facing serious setbacks. We are experiencing heartbreaks, finding new anxieties, and learning that life is much more complicated than we want it to be. Yet I have also had the privilege of witnessing so much good. Faculty have invested countless hours implementing teaching plans focused on equity and mercy. Staff have gone above and beyond job descriptions in smoothing out the edges of these sharp times. Students have found their voices in unexpected ways. And every time someone has said that they need help, I have watched them be supported by colleagues and friends. This has been far from an ideal semester, and not every reaction or response to this situation has been perfect. Nevertheless, I can’t help but end on this rather Pollyanna note: that in this time of crisis, I’ve rediscovered how proud and grateful I am to be part of this Trinity community.