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Story Title: Dear Professor,

Contributor Name: Patricia Navarra
Created: April 29, 2020 at 9:46 PM

Story: What are your experiences teaching & learning in the time of coronavirus?

Dear Professor, I am sorry, but I can’t focus. I miss our class more than I can say.

Let’s call her Rachel. I miss her too. Miss the spaces for laughter. Miss the doubt and question. Miss the raised eyebrow. Miss our quick bonds in Writing Studies; every first-year student’s major is hand-noted. We manifest audience, purpose, making meaning. I teach now at my brother’s childhood desk, next to my dusty childhood piano. Our house is filled with sunshine. It is less than 1400 square feet, so I hesitate to describe this pretty little room as a foyer -- at least as it is pronounced in French. Seamus is always at my feet. 

That Baldwin next to me has its own history: Roy Peter Clark (Writing Tools), the older boy up the street and just home from Providence College, came in to play the first notes in our house that Christmas. My students know Clark well. I was in the sixth grade. That piano, from Steinway Street, was all I ever wanted and my father, a young electrician, got it. The whole neighborhood came out to see its delivery. Roy’s father was a Customs Agent in JFK.  We are each first-gen college grads. 

In our classrooms, we use Roy’s name as a verb, as in, “Did you Clark this?” My students and Roy are suddenly three feet apart. Roy’s distant grandfather was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. His mother, Shirley, was the child of Italian and Jewish immigrants who grew up in a tenement on the Lower East Side with 57 first cousins. 

Dear Professor, my family has to move this weekend, but at least we will be in the same state. I will get all of my work in, I promise. Sometimes life hits hard.

Let’s call him Alex. His family didn’t plan this. But it’s April 2020. He is glad for the asynchronous classes and cannot show up for Zoom meetings. I once used a Clark reference to Haitian journalism and he stayed after class to tell me his family was from Cap Haitien. 

Dear Professor, I have tested positive for COVID and both of my parents are sick with it. Hoping you can give me an extension for the last assignment.  

Let’s call him Simon.His work is exemplary and has been workshopped because, in his words, “I was an Intelligence Officer in Iraq.  I wrote reports for Generals. People’s lives depended upon my accuracy.”

How are you all today?

Okay.                    Okay.


Okay.                    Okay. I am mostly in my room all day and no one bothers me, so that’s really okay. Professor, do you think we will be on campus in the Fall? 



Keywords/Tags: writing from a Long Island with closed beaches

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