The following stories are presented in groups. For example, our first collection of stories, from the first-year writing program at California State University, Los Angeles, presents stories written in response to prompts provided by five faculty members in the program.
The First-Year Writing Program at California State University, Los Angeles serves one of the most diverse student populations in the country. 85% of our Cal State LA students identify as persons of color, and many are bi- or multi-lingual. Another 77% identify as first-generation college, and a majority come from working-class and low-income backgrounds.1 The stay-at-home orders issued in response to the Coronavirus pandemic have impacted our students in complicated ways. As faculty, we have witnessed the challenges our students must negotiate as a result of closures to their university campus and their places of employment. While they worry for the health and safety of loved ones and the world at large, they also struggle with issues like increased work and family responsibilities, lack of access to technology and study spaces, food and housing insecurities, and general anxiety and confusion about the future. We work with a unique population of learners, and we wanted to provide a forum for the students in our classes to express their experiences with the pandemic alongside their culturally diverse identities and interactions with the urban metropolis they call home.
The narratives in this collection represent the voices of students who were enrolled in first-year writing courses at Cal State LA during the Spring 2020 semester. Additionally, we include work by students in one English major courseâ€”Literary Los Angelesâ€”which offers insight into the experiences of students navigating critical transitions in the time of Coronavirus. As first-year writing faculty, we design courses that foreground major writing concepts and skillsetsâ€”process-oriented approaches to writing, awareness of genre conventions, critical thinking, argumentation and analysis, and information literacyâ€”but our pedagogies also emphasize the value of the unique experiences, knowledges, and literacies our students bring into the writing classroom. We know our students have powerful stories to tell, and we understand the critical importance of providing opportunities for our students to tell those stories in their own words. This is an especially important endeavor for students living and persevering through crisis.
In the introductions that follow, we provide insight into the content of our individual courses, the kind of work we do with our students, and our different approaches to engaging a common conceptual prompt that we hoped would help us to better understand and document our students’ experiences, observations, and perspectives during the time of Coronavirus. We express our different views on the importance of a project like this and offer some discussion on the ways in which the work supported our and our students’ transition to remote instruction. We believe the stories collected here demonstrate the perceptiveness, resilience, and resourcefulness of our students. They represent trials and tribulations but also powerful acts of perseverance. We hope they will provide valuable perspective for those trying to understand the impact of this pandemic on historically underrepresented communities.
COVID in the Home “Stretch”
The transition to remote teaching was a difficult one for many of my students in ENGL 1005B: College Composition II. Having already completed a semester and a half of “stretch” composition, all my students were on track to pass the class and fulfill their Written Communication GE requirement, which would bring them each a step closer to earning their colleg . . .
Voicing a Crisis: Rhetoric and Reflection
Sometimes the hardest part is knowing that so many stories don’t get told. So many of my students did not finish the semester and never had the opportunity to submit for this project. Some of my students lost jobs or housing. Some students who’d been at every class with every assignment completed could not access the internet or contact me. Some were frustrated by quarantine, frightened for (or of) their families or . . .
Student Stories LA
I was teaching English 2600 this spring, Literary Los Angeles, and when I created a blog for students to post, most of my submissions came from this class. I have selected the contributions here because I these students agreed to participate. In the class we had been discussing Los Angeles as a paradox, Los Angeles light or dark, and what I found from the student poems was an incredible sense of love for the city, and yes, even of hop . . .
The following is a collection of short narratives, journals, and creative/poetry pieces that were written by my English 1010: Accelerated College Writing students. These students proved to be a highly motivated and dedicated group–eager to jump into our class topics and often delighted me with their curiosity and creativity as thinkers and writers. My fear was that the abrupt end of our face-to-face classes would halt the intellectual and emotional spirit we had fostered prior to the Coronavi . . .
Each Student is a Story: Captured Voices in a Topsy-Turvy Time
From the beginning of the beginning, humans lived and then told narratives about tragedy and triumph. Themes of birthing and themes of dying–the foundation of humanity. Themes of relationship and religion. Themes of love and lust, faithfulness and infidelity, fulfilled hearts and broken hearts. Themes of what was lost and themes of what was found. Good vs. evil. Right vs wrong… And chronicles of plag . . .