I was going to write about Sandra Oh’s new series “The Chair” and UR’s administration for my editorial observer this week. I actually did write that article on Tuesday, right before the first day of classes. But after finishing my first class on Wednesday, it didn’t feel like the best piece for the week. Campus is alive again, rowdy and dynamic, the weather is swell, and we are back in the classrooms.
The night before my first class, I was wary about having to wake up a decent amount of time before my 9:00 a.m., sans the option of rolling out of bed and immediately opening Zoom. I didn’t realize how used to a Zoom-oriented schedule I’d become, or how my learning style had changed after the past three challenging semesters. Yet as soon as I walked into my lecture, I felt a burst of energy just from being in a classroom with multiple conversations going on in all different directions.
The smallest things struck me during the first week of classes. I think that a lot of us felt the shock of returning to the classroom. Even if we’re all wearing masks, and even if the constant underlying worry over variants, vaccines, and varying concerns about what may come these upcoming weeks persists, it feels good.
The relief radiating off of professors who can actually make eye contact with their students, able to teach to a face again rather than a sea of black squares. Students seeing friends and acquaintances, making acquaintances from side comments and conversations in lecture. It’s easier to say hello to a person than to type it in a chat window. We’re able to gather at tables in Rush Rhees again, pulling up chairs to catch-up, collaborate together, or just collectively zone out from our assignments.
We’re going to venture into familiar but different waters; the UR community will wade into the hectic but rewarding nature of an “in-person” semester. I say different waters because we will not go back to what it was like before. But we can be more than grateful to experience the joys and privilege of being able to learn in-person, as a community.
If you’re nervous for any reason about the return to in-person classes, that’s more than understandable. We’ve all had to adapt to a new learning environment and style, and then figure out how to be successful. While there are going to be feelings of joy over a return to the classrooms, there are also going to be worries. But if the past year taught us anything, I think it taught us to roll with the punches; it taught us how to adapt.
We will all be slammed soon with midterms, finals, and homework (oh my!), but take a moment to celebrate. Take a moment to breathe and enjoy because education is a privilege. Being able to go to school is its own privilege. We are finally all together and are able to embark on our semesters together. I don’t think I’m the only one on a roller coaster of emotions over the return to school, but overall, I’m smiling. We’re back, I think we’re all mostly ready, and we got this. Next week we can start thinking about “The Chair,” UR’s administration, free speech, and controversies. This is a time to smile.