Director’s Blog

Pandemic, Pandemic, and Gratitude

by | Feb 2, 2022 | Director's Blog

I went back and forth on the topic for this blog post. I feel like everyone is so sick of talking about the pandemic that another post about it would cause people to scream “STOP POSTING ABOUT THE PANDEMIC!” But then, if I wrote about something that’s not the pandemic, people might scream “HOW COULD YOU NOT POST ABOUT THE PANDEMIC?!” Or perhaps no one would scream anything because my blog doesn’t elicit that type of response. Regardless, I’ll attempt to do a little of both since people-pleasing is what I do best.

Welcome back to campus if you’re teaching in-person again. Take a moment to reflect on all the different ways you have had to teach these past two years, and now you have a quarter where it has been all kinds of versions! What will the pandemic bring next? Who knows?! We should all get together and write a book on teaching and making things up as you go, for years on end. My advice is to make things easy on yourself during yet another transition. I know you are also juggling getting COVID yourselves, home with kids with COVID, home with kids exposed to COVID, home because school closed due to COVID, home because you live with immunocompromised family (or are immunocompromised yourself), and also all the non-COVID issues. Use what you have recorded whenever you can, do Zoom office hours, and just be honest with your students when there’s a lot going on. Some students see faculty as these relentless robots that sleep in their offices. Telling your students that you’re behind on grading because you are on an endless cycle of quarantine and spend hours every day trying to get COVID tests for everyone in your family will remind them that you are a human struggling right now as well. And that’s ok.

And now for non-pandemic content. Students recently flooded DTEI with their nominations for Celebration of Teaching, and I get the honor of reading through their comments. Nothing gives me a lift more than seeing the wonderful things they have to say about UCI faculty. To share that joy, here is a sample of what they are saying:

“My father died this year and he was the most caring and compassionate person he could possibly be, giving me creative ideas for my work and for my personal self. He made the classroom atmosphere comfortable and light hearted so it was exciting to learn, he truly changed my idea of school for the better and I will be forever thankful for him- it was fun to learn with him”

“His class helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life, when I had major health problems. His comedy class taught me the power of hope and relating to others. His class brought me laughter on my most difficult days. He is kind, understanding, empathetic, so enthusiastic, and made those inexperienced in the topics of his class feel right at home. I learned so much from his class and him, and I will never forget how happy his class made me when I was at my worst.”

“She aspires to impact her students’ lives positively. Listening to her teach will make you realize that she wants her students to do well not only in her class but in their academic careers and beyond.”

“I actually failed one of his classes last winter quarter and was at a very low point in my life. When I asked to talk to him about my academic status he was very understanding and gave me hope that I could still have another chance which, to this day I appreciate a lot. Not all professors are able to show their “human side” and relate to students. When I retook that class with him last quarter I was looking forward to it and actually ended up getting a good grade.”

“As a student I learn things from her lectures or readings, that I would not find in any textbook. This approach gives me inspiration to go to graduate school, and one day, become a clinical psychologist.”

One thing that stood out in this year’s nominations is how many students expressed gratitude for instructors valuing their mental health. I hope you all know how impactful your efforts are, even when you don’t hear about it.

Here’s another piece of good news: February is the shortest month.

In other news…
I set my reading goal for 75 books this year. I finished 10 in January, and the best one I read was A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher. It’s her debut novel and very impressive.

Andrea Aebersold

Andrea Aebersold

Director, Faculty Instructional Development

Andrea Aebersold is the Director of Faculty Instructional Development at University of California, Irvine. She earned a PhD in English and was an associate professor of teaching before coming to UCI. She specializes in active learning, evidence-based teaching, and reading mountains of books.