We began online teaching at UAB on Wednesday, my first such teaching in my (gulp) thirty-three year career. And, not just any subject, but clarinet lessons; not an easy subject to convey through the screen of a computer with all of the inherent nuances and intricacies. But- I’m just grateful to have a job and to be able to do it right now when so many are out of work.
The first day did not go well. At all. For a career in which I typically feel quite competent, I felt like a total failure. I was wrong about the start time of my first student (though I had carefully typed up my new teaching schedule) and had difficulty getting Zoom to work (even though I had practiced prior to this). The one bright spot? My students. Seeing their smiling faces and hearing them play was such a gift and a huge boost to my spirits.
I spent the first few minutes of each lesson asking my students how they were holding up and if they had been able to create a daily schedule as we’d discussed to help them get through this strange time. I have worried about them; some have gone home to situations that may not be great, where they may not be accepted. Some are trying to do work for online classes with little or no access to the technology they need or the WiFi to be able to connect. They are away from their friends and the activities and freedoms of college life. However, they are resilient and creative, and are all doing their best to make this new paradigm in this new scary world work.
Before I started teaching this morning, we decided to make a run to get a couple of important errands taken care of; grocery store, veterinarian, and a parts pick-up at Lowe’s. Thankfully, Dan had two N-95 face masks left over from a construction project a while back. We felt like Hanible Lecter, but at least between the masks, social distancing, and our antibacterial wipes, we felt like we’d made positive steps to stay safe. We did what we called ‘surgical hits’; dropped Marley and Shiva off (Marley’s annual checkup and Shiva’s nail clipping, along with stocking up on their medications). Next we dashed to Lowe’s to pick up parts Dan ordered for our upcoming bathroom renovation, then on to Publix for a targeted wish list of groceries. It felt so good to pull into our garage afterwards and be back home. It’s the only place I feel truly safe right now.
I have to admit that I get a rush of panic seeing all of the empty shelves at the grocery store; no paper products, the meat section bare (we don’t eat meat, but seeing the empty shelves…), soups wiped out, frozen foods wiped out, dairy…and other signs all around the store of people panic buying. I felt tears sting my eyes. What is happening? Intellectually I realize that there is plenty, that people are just scared and hoarding like crazy, but that this has been the situation for two weeks does worry me. A lot. We may have a long time to go before this damn virus dies down, and I really hope and pray that people will stop the panic buying and begin thinking about others who will be in need.
This virus is presenting opportunities of both feast and famine for us. We see famine in the callousness and lack of empathy in some people (much worse than any toilet paper shortage) and in the suffering and fear all around us, and we experience the feast in good people doing their best to keep others safe and help where they can, in our medical professionals who give so much and endanger themselves to help the sick. I see it in the kindness of our neighbors, and in the dedication and passion of my colleagues and our students who are doing our best to keep education moving forward amidst many obstacles. I also see feast in this precious time of togetherness with Dan and our animals in our home. We will all take different things from this experience once it has passed. I’m hoping to let go of the fear and focus on the gratitude for good of humanity that will always shine through in times of crisis.