Career Advice

Dear Faculty, I See You.

Recap on what’s it like being a professor in the covid era

I don’t know about you, but when I first saw the news on the first Covid case in my country I just thought we’d be able to contain it and that was going to stop there. 

I know, I was too optimistic. I see it now. 

But then we went into a global lockdown and life as we know it stopped completely. 

I remember my last day in the classroom, mocking around with my students about how we’d end up all wearing masks and having a short break from classes. 

I remember rushing with my colleagues to modify the schedules and moving classes to April thinking everything would go back to normal then.

I remember setting up Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and who knows how many other videoconferencing tools and trying to figure out which one was more appropriate, easier to use, and free of course.

I remember playing with my kids and preparing lunch while attending a faculty meeting. 

I remember being grateful for having a yard, good health, and a fast internet connection. 

And then I remember it started to last long, too long.

I imagine this is a familiar scenario for many of you. As any good educator, you’d tried to look at the bright side and adapt to the circumstances, believing that this would be something temporary and that soon we’d be back in our classrooms to do what we love the most. 

Now, two years after that first lockdown, we know that there’s no going back to normal and we just need to learn to live with these new circumstances. But, even after two years, we are still struggling with the unknown. Every day is a new challenge, and no matter how much technology has evolved we haven’t found a sustainable solution to the issues that this pandemic has dismantled.

Because that is the truth. The problems in the education system are not new. 

The struggles that some students face every day are not new. The feeling of exhaustion and abandonment of many faculty is not new. The lack of resources and training in teaching is not new. 

We were all aware of these issues way before the pandemic, only the health crisis highlighted the education crisis and the fragility of the system. Suddenly, it became evident to people outside academia that the education system needed a change.

But two years later we’re still hoping for that change. And is not that we are sitting still waiting for policymakers to enact the change, many of us here are working day and night to see that change happen.

And it hasn’t been easy. 

Because even when the school has no budget for buying appropriate material for remote teaching, we are relying on bricolage and working with what we have available. 

While there’s not enough support and training for remote curriculum design, we are following thousands of youtube tutorials on how to code, create and edit videos, design beautiful material, and split screens. 

While we are stick to our headphones and computer, we’re mastering ubiquitousness 24/7. 

While we have to isolate ourselves when the PCR turns positive, we still manage to work remotely, take care of our family and be as performing as if we were asymptomatic. 

While our payslip isn’t showing any more zeros, we keep working more than those legal 48 weekly hours.

 While only a third of our students are actually participating in our classes, we do our best to make those classes memorable. 

While we don’t have any training in psychology, we are all reaching out to our students even on holidays to make sure they don’t quit. 

While we are new to teaching a subject, we are always there to replace a colleague that’s sick. 

While we want to take that well-deserved break, we keep our schedule free in case classes need to be postponed. 

I know it hasn’t been easy. 

And I know you’re still asking yourself if you will be able to keep going like this. I know you’re having doubts about teaching being your vocation. I know you’re starting to burn out.

So this is for you. 

This short post is not to rant about everything that’s wrong with education today. 

This short post is to celebrate you! 

This is to tell you that you are an awesome human being. To let you know that without you, our youth would be lost today. This is to tell you that I see you, that many people just like you, see you. This is to tell you that you’re not alone, that you are part of a community of people that cares. 

This is to appreciate what you do every day. This is to thank you for not giving up on us, on them.

But this is also to tell you, that is ok to break too. 

It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, tired, sad, lonely, discouraged, abandoned. 

It’s ok if you don’t answer emails on the weekends. It’s ok if you need one week to recover from covid symptoms. It’s ok if you don’t know how to make a perfect video. It’s ok if you say No to your colleagues. It’s ok if you can’t help every and each of your students. It’s ok if you take a two weeks vacation to rest.

Yes, you are awesome. But you’re still human.

Don’t forget that. 

Because you can’t change the world if there is no you in this world. 

So pause for a minute, take a breath. 

You deserve it.