Learning During the Pandemic: What we wish our professors and mentors knew

Student Authors: Mayleen Cortez, Brooke Keene-Gomez, Lucy Martinez, Amaury V. Miniño, Jenna Race, Kelemua Tesfaye, and Stephanie. Blog post compiled by Melissa Gutiérrez González, Pamela E. Harris, and Alicia Prieto Langarica.

In this blog we center the voices of mathematics students as they share their experience with remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“What do you wish your professor knew about your current experience with remote learning and living during this pandemic?”

  • How hard it is to focus on school work at home and how anxious I am about finances. 
  • I wish my professors knew that my mental health has not been stable. I am also currently attending online classes in the dining room which is not the best place to focus for my classes. I do not have a designated area in my home to do my homework or to attend my classes. It is difficult to sit at the same spot where you eat and complete homework. Sitting in front of a computer is also exhausting and it has been difficult to focus on each class. 
  • I wish my professors knew how disruptive the move to online courses and social distancing measures have been to my daily and weekly schedule. I spent years learning about myself and how I best function, and all of that feels as though it has been thrown away since I am stuck at home. It is particularly stressful since I am in my last semester, and was in no way prepared for the additional stress and anxiety that has come through the pandemic.
  • One thing I wish my professors knew about my current experience during COVID-19 is that I’m dealing with so much more than just living through this pandemic. My family is currently going through a tough time over something unrelated to COVID-19. My heart feels broken over a certain family member’s situation and I feel helpless. Some of my close friends are stuck at home with emotionally and mentally abusive family members and I feel helpless. Furthermore, so many of my loved ones and friends are undocumented immigrants who are not recieving stimulus checks or unemployment and my heart feels heavy all the time. My people are suffering. Our people are suffering and I feel… helpless. I can’t think of a better word. How can I just sit here and work on an essay or another assignment that feels like “busywork” when people are sick, scared, starving and dying? I’m doing the best I can, but sometimes I wish I could drop my classes and just focus on my family. I want to put my effort into finding ways to help my community… not replying to another discussion post or trying to derive numerical quadrature techniques or writing another essay on whether or not I think numbers actually exist.
  • I don’t have unlimited free time just because we’re quarantined. I live with people who are working from home, my siblings who are also trying to do school online, and my young son, so I don’t have undisturbed time to work.
  • This pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerabilities myself and loved ones hold in society. Those of us operating from communities at high risk are organizing to support one another within the evolving circumstances. Online learning is predicated on students having access to the resources campus offers as well as having the stability and capacity to maintain the workload despite the circumstances. This assumes a privilege of distance from the crisis, as well as a baseline level of wealth, access, and health to navigate the new academic terrain. Students like myself existing at rich intersections are well practiced in resilience and creativity in overcoming structural barriers. Even if this isn’t the dominant narrative at the university, I think it’s vital for institutions to exercise the same creativity we exhibit in support of students. 
  • I wish my professors knew how hard this is. My whole life has changed. Going to class was the highlight of my day. Now I don’t leave the house for days other than to check the mail. I’m above average when it comes to motivation, but lately it’s been a struggle. I’m an extrovert and I get energy from people, especially people who are enthusiastic about their field. Now I watch pre recorded Zoom videos in lieu of lectures. I think perhaps if that was my established expectation, I wouldn’t find it as disappointing. I do hope the professors know they are appreciated, and that everything they do does help. I want them to know that while this is hard, most students realize it’s hard for them too. It’s a transition for everyone.

“What do you need from your mentors during this time?” 

  • I urge my mentors to exercise empathy and organize to challenge structural racism and classism, to combat disposability politics. 
  • I need my mentors to be understanding of the abnormal situation we are in. As I work through my courses, I am less motivated by a desire to learn, and more motivated by a need to establish normalcy. I want to care more about the work that I am doing, but I am scared of what will happen in the coming months and years. One of the best ways my mentors could help is by simply checking in with me, talking with me, and guiding me to ways to ground myself.
  • Advice about future academic goals and less emphasis on exams, more on course material.
  • I need my mentors to motivate me and guide me through this difficult time. I know that this should be a two way ongoing mentorship and guidance because professors are also going through challenges as well. Students and mentors should work together to create a strong and collective participation. Small emails are important for me as a reminder that we are all in this together. Meeting through a form of video call has been essential for me as it keeps up my self-esteem.  
  • To ease up on the workload. Many professors are assigning more work and I don’t have enough time to keep up with it.
  • I need patience and understanding. I just want to be successful. I’m going to ask a lot of questions and ‘blow up your inbox.’ I apologize in advance. Please try and understand this isn’t what I signed up for. I know it’s not what you did either.
  • I need to know that if I don’t end this semester with awesome grades, or if I take a little too long to respond to an email, or if I just haven’t checked in with them in a while, that they understand and aren’t holding it against me… that they still value me and they know I’m trying my very hardest to be positive, productive, healthy and responsible during this pandemic. I just need them to know I’m trying my best… and I need to know that that’s enough.

We hope that these comments inspire faculty and mentors to listen to their own students  and to understand what they are experiencing as they live through this pandemic. May the experiences shared by Mayleen, Brooke, Lucy, Amaury, Kelemua, and Stephanie inspire you to reach out to your students wishing them continued health and safety, and to remind them that they matter, that they are valued, and that they continue to be more than enough.

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1 Response to Learning During the Pandemic: What we wish our professors and mentors knew

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