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Story Title: Everything Was Happening Too Fast

Contributor Name: Emma Lee. Guthrie
Created: March 27, 2020 at 3:07 PM

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

Everything was happening too fast. We knew that our university would be moving to online learning… we wondered how long we would stay online. I’m a program assistant for Bowling Green State University’s University Writing Program, meaning that I mentor first-time graduate teachers through their first year of teaching first year writing. The last few days included a flurry of hasty emails… more information soon… here are some resources for now… don’t worry if it’s not perfect… we’re all in this together… you can reach me at… 

I entered my small office, light streaming in, silent. Scouring my shelves, I searched for any books and documents I would need in at least the next three months. My plastic office plants looked back at me under green eyelashes; they would survive. I wondered what the world would look like when the university opened again. Juggling piles of books, and hastily grabbing my smallest plastic plant, I hit the light switch and shuffled into the long empty hall of offices. Walking down the dark hall, I wondered if we would all be reunited again. I thought about my immune compromised friends, family, and colleagues and my heart beat faster as I descended the stairs. 

That night I couldn’t sleep. I thought about my partner who lives and works in California. I didn’t know when we would see each other again. After tossing and turning for hours, I burst out of my tangled sheets and in a mad haste, and hurriedly packed up two suitcases. I would begin to drive in the morning. 

The 31 hour drive from Ohio to California was a fever dream. I didn’t feel safe sleeping in a hotel so I slept in my car. Shaking in the 35 degree weather, I parked for the night at a truck stop in a state I no longer remember. I stopped only for gas and sleep. My cat, who came along for the ride, slept fitfully in the backseat. As I drove up into the mountains in New Mexico, I cried. The invisible threat of COVID-19 seemed so far away as I winded around tight turns, semis in my front and rear with mountain peaks bathed in fleeting light. 

I arrived in California 2 days later. My partner called me crazy and kissed me while I felt warm inside; we were together and that was all that mattered to me in that sleep deprived moment. The next morning I unpacked, and set up an office in the dining room. I’m sitting in this makeshift office now; he’s at Walmart for our weekly grocery run. I thought grocery pickup would be the best idea but pickup is no longer offered because of the overwhelming amount of people trying to pick up groceries. I worry about people who can’t afford to buy groceries. I worry about everyone. 

Webex has become my best friend. This morning, I talked to the faculty and other graduate students in my program. These are unusual times… we need to be there for each other… how are we staying productive?… 

I’m not. 

I can’t think. 

Sometimes, I can’t breathe. 

For my dissertation, I will begin gathering data via survey soon. I am looking at how impostor feelings affect graduate students from multiple disciplines, especially in relation to their writing processes and mentoring structures. COVID-19 will now be a part of those graduate students’ stories. I have never felt so unsure of myself as a graduate student. On a whiteboard, I created a list of each project I’m involved in. I broke it down in every way possible. Yesterday, I turned the whiteboard around because I could longer stand to see it staring at me. Telling me that I’m not doing enough. That I’m falling behind. I have never felt this little motivation. But I tell myself that I need to keep trying. I need to keep accountable in some way. My graduate cohort has created a Google Folder including a spreadsheet where we will share weekly goals that we are trying to accomplish. We are also planning on webexing twice per week to stay accountable on completing those goals. I hope other graduate students begin similar support/accountability groups. We need each other in face to face classes. We need each other more than ever in this pandemic. I have endless thanks for listservs like #NextGen where resources have been flowing in. Yesterday, #NextGen had a thread devoted to supporting graduate students beginning the prelim exam process who may not have access to the texts that they need to read. I created an email folder titled “Pedagogy Resources in the Face of COVID-19” that I continuously open to share resources with others who need them. 

Although I feel sad, scared, and unsure, I have felt so much help and warmth from others on Twitter, on listservs, and over video chat. I have stopped reading every single COVID-19 article shared on social media. I read the major updates, but reading every single article was sending me into a daily spiraling panic. I encourage everyone to limit your intake if it’s negatively affecting your mental health. Stay informed, but don’t go into that black hole if it’s unhelpful. Create a plan for eating and drinking. If you struggle with over or undereating, accountability is key. Find others out there who you can confide in. The same goes for alcoholic drinks. Stay in communication with others, whether that be texting, calling, or video chatting. These are troubling times but I know that as cheesy as it sounds, we are ALL in this together. We WILL continue to learn from and with each other.

Sending love and light to you all, 

Emma Guthrie

Twitter: @eMma_guthrie13

Keywords/Tags: Graduate Students; Pandemic; Mentoring; Video; WebEx; Struggle; Personal; Communication; Writing

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