As we settle in at our home desks and spread out all of our overpriced textbooks, Five Star notebooks, and our pens of choice (black Papermate ballpoint, forever and always) in front of us, it feels like something’s missing. I’m not just talking about the routine of getting up at a certain time every morning, brushing your teeth, getting dressed and heading out the door or dormitory every day. That is a tangible emptiness. What I’m talking about is more of a feeling. Like the feeling you get on the first day of school; the one that you get in the pit of your stomach. It’s a cross between the beloved butterflies and the raucous rumble of what you ate for breakfast that morning. It’s the feeling of sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a classroom with carpet that’s probably been there since the school was first built. It’s the feeling of watching your potential new friends stream into the room and wonder which one will put out the chair next to you, because we all know that’s a silent pact that will be honored for the entire semester. You are teammates now, and teammates work together. It’s the feeling of the professor’s words clicking in your head, having that “a-ha!” moment and then leaving the classroom to apply what you’ve learned to your assignments. All of these feelings come from human connection.
We aren’t getting any of that with online school. Instead of the butterflies, we’re facing the dreaded roll out of bed. Instead of sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a classroom, we’re sitting in our beds or at makeshift desks in a home environment, if we’re lucky enough to have one. Instead of watching your potential friends walk into a room, you’re watching strangers’ faces pop up in boxes on your screen. Do you even remember their names? Would you recognize them as “that guy from my writing class” if you saw them walking down the street? Instead of feeling the bliss of an “a-ha!” moment when what the professor is explaining finally clicks into place, we’re getting emails that say, “ask three peers, post in the forum, and use Google BEFORE you ask me.” And this is all before we even get to see your smile. If we’re even lucky enough to have professors that hold mandatory Zoom classes.
It’s not right that we’re being given the job of the professor and the student. It’s not right that we’re given a bunch of different tasks in a bunch of different folders and told to submit it in three days’ time. It’s not right that we might only hear from our professors once a week. It’s not right that I feel like I’m just submitting work by a deadline instead of learning and being invested in what I learn. This sh*t is so lonely. And trying. And frustrating. And maddening. Are we done yet?