When I was packing to go home, I favoured school books over clothes. It’s been eight weeks, and I haven’t read any of them.
Doing school work when everything else in my life is at a literal standstill is impossible. How do I reconcile needing to pass all my classes so I graduate this year with the possibility that my school may not be re-opening, so the chance of being #Classof2020 isn’t solid?
I’m frustrated. When I look at my books (I’m looking at a stack of them as I write this), all I can see is the uncertainty of my future. I can’t bring myself to see anything else.
We’re stuck indoors in this uncertain time trying to survive, hoping to. For many students, this isn’t a time when we want to keep up with classes or assignments — even online courses we elected to do.
At the beginning of this year, one of my goals was to upskill, to gain more out of classroom knowledge about law, and to improve my writing. When this pandemic came around, I said to myself, my opportunity has finally come knocking. I was wrong, enthusiastic, but wrong.
The Monday after I got home, I sat down for about 5 hours creating a schedule. It was to divide my time equally amongst reading for my classes, taking all the newly free Udemy courses I signed up for, and trying to meet my goal of reading 50 books this year. It only worked for a few days.
I want to take my education seriously. I still try to open my books, but then I look at them, and the words run off and swirl until all I see is how bleak my future is. Then I beat myself up about being too lazy and making excuses — the cycle restarts.
I want to be productive, to not let the virus get the best of me, but I’m a nervous wreck. These days, the only things I can manage to do are read and write. Reading creates an escape. I’m in a different world.
When I was reading Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of the Four Wives, I was no longer in 2020, hoping to survive a pandemic. I was in Ibadan; I was Baba Segi, I was Segi, I was every one of the four wives, I was the doctors, I was everyone but Emmanuella lying in bed reading a book to distract herself from the world around her.
When I write, I let my emotions flow, I feel so many things at once, and I can no longer feel the despair of not knowing what tomorrow holds. It’s another escape. It feels like all I’m doing nowadays is escaping.
According to my social media interactions, I’m not alone in this. Students everywhere have developed an apathy to studying and who can blame them. We’re all worried about our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Some of us have family in essential services; some of us have lost loved ones. We’re all wondering what comes next.
I worry a lot. My sisters are in Lagos, Nigeria’s epicentre of the virus. They have the privilege of working from home, but with the gradual easing of the lockdown, one of them has to return to work. I worry about her. Here, at home, my mum goes out to get groceries, she refuses to let anyone else go. She’s nearing 50, I worry about what will happen to her. I worry about what will happen to my teenaged little sister and me if something does happen.
I want to learn, but how do I push everything that’s happening to the back of my mind long enough to read more than a sentence? I’m happy I don’t have to worry about assignments or exams.
I’ve been taking an online class that I signed up for before things got serious. It’s very hands-on, and I’ve found it easier to work. I’m not trying to force my brain to read words; I’m immersed in the doing. I can only work for 30 minutes to an hour at a time, but I’m grateful for it.
I think that’s something all educators need to consider. Maybe this is a time when you need to explore the practical side of the class you teach. I don’t know how this would work in all disciplines, but it’s something worth thinking about. Instead of having students write a paper, ask them to create something. If you teach a class on criminal law, ask your students to re-enact a case they have to study for the course.
When students actively participate in their learning process, you not only make it easier for them to learn, you also help to distract them from the chaos around them.
While doing this, it is essential to remember that your students cannot give the same level of output they could when they were in school and not going through this emotional turmoil. Cut them some slack. Revise your grading system, or if you can, do away with grades altogether. This is a time where we reward effort.
Students everywhere are frustrated, and educators need to understand that. We’re trying our best to keep up with our education, but it really is out of our hands. This is a time for educators to show empathy. We can’t be as productive or enthusiastic as we usually would be. We’re not lazy; we’re going through the biggest crisis of our lifetime.