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We Know You’re Trying: An Open Letter To Our Professors

It goes without saying that this semester has not gone according to plan.

If everything was how it was supposed to be, we’d all be in State College right now drinking Cafe teas in the sunshine, gearing up for Blue-White weekend, and hanging out with our friends fewer than six feet apart.

Instead, we are scattered all over the world, enrolled at Zoom University, and trying not to have a meltdown over the semester that came to an abrupt end. Instead of hopping on the White Loop or trudging up Shortlidge to head to class, we’re sitting in our childhood bedrooms in our pajamas and trying to muster up the motivation to pay attention to what our professors are saying.

Yes, our situation is bad. Some of us are separated from our families and friends, some of us are personally fighting this virus, and all of us are trying to adjust to our collective new normal. This situation sucks, and we don’t know how long this is what our lives will be like.

But for me, what makes this entire thing a little bit easier are my professors, who were given basically zero notice before they needed to completely re-work their syllabi to make the move online. They had to put aside everything they were struggling with in order to continue to do their jobs the best that they could in a way that was completely unfamiliar to them.

One of my professors is not very comfortable with technology (we didn’t have a Canvas page before this remote period) but has been watching all these videos and reading all these tutorials so that our class isn’t hindered by her not knowing how Zoom works. Even when she does get confused, she asks us for help, and we all just figure it out together.

Another one of my teachers (shoutout to Dr. H — I know you read these!) begins every lecture by asking us individually how we’re doing and what she can personally do to help make this easier on us. She remembers what we say and makes sure to ask about it again in later classes, and if we tell her we’re struggling with something, she provides extensions and restructures the class to work better for us.

There are dozens of stories like this that I’ve heard from my friends over the past few weeks, and it just goes to show that Penn State professors really do care about us as people.

Of course, nothing is perfect. Zoom will crash, students will struggle with being taught remotely, and lesson plans may not translate well online. There will be students who say something funny that disrupts the whole class and professors who lose their patience.

But remember that our teachers are trying the best they can. They are likely just as miserable as we are, but they still need to lead classes and hold office hours. I think we have a tendency to forget that professors have lives outside of our classes, but if the number of living rooms and dogs I’ve seen over the past few weeks are any indication, they’re definitely (maybe) real people too.

I’m not saying we need to get on our hands and knees and profusely thank our professors for doing their job. I’m not even saying you have to go to say thank you out loud in your next Zoom lecture.

Just recognize that they’re trying. What we’re all going through is not easy, and we’re only going to get through it together.

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About the Author

Katie Moats

Katie Moats is a senior majoring in English, and her goal this year is to get a big girl job. Seriously, though, if you're looking for someone who can write and edit like nobody's business, she's Katelyn Moats on LinkedIn and will literally interview with you tomorrow. You can follow her @k_moats24 on Twitter for stupid content, but if it's something serious, feel free to shoot her an email (preferably in the form of a poem) to [email protected]

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