Letter to the editor: A faculty member writes to students

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Hello Team,  

We have cleared this first week of online classes. My week was very hectic. While learning numerous new software packages, prepping course materials, holding zoom classes, replying to lots of emails and such, I was working 10-14 hour days. On Friday, after my morning meeting, I went outside to walk the new puppy, go to the market to fetch curb-side delivery (my house full of scientists and public health professionals working hard to maintain physical distance) and cut firewood to get some cardio. Basically, I took Friday afternoon and evening as mental-physical-good-health rebound time. I hope you make time for such too. 

Now in my fourth decade of teaching college, I am being pressed into modalities I never wanted to engage in. I thrive on in-person instruction, in which I can readily add emphasis, inspire and spread awe, recruit new minds, plant clues, reward presence, watch eyes and enjoy smiles. I have never been a huge fan of computer slide shows. I do not like talking on the phone. So, this whole move to online has been very challenging, particularly because I had distanced myself from all of the tools that today are the obvious assets. There is talk of online instruction next fall. It would be easier the second time around, but I still would not choose it. If I could have concluded my career without teaching through computer modalities, I would have. If I have a choice in the future, I will forever avoid online teaching. I very much miss being with you, and all my students, in person. 

Such said, it is what it is. SRU has chosen to give students a choice in grade format. I strongly urge to assemble a passing performance. If I were you, my priority would be to pass every class and get closer to graduation. To get solid return on investment for the expense of every credit hour would be a priority. I know many of us are deeply disappointed that all kinds of cool things are not going to happen the way that we wanted them to go. I worked for two years to plan a conference in DC, which was to occur days after spring break, March 19-21. With an eight days notice, the event was cancelled. Hundreds of hours of work was vaporized. Anticipated profits became actual losses. I was also ready to teach a class in Utah in May. Holy smokes, that class was going to be awesome. I had an array of April field trips planned on and around campusI was going to get to speak on campus for Earth Day 50. All are gone. I think every one of us feels such loss. The key, today, is to bolster your determination to complete your classes in the next five weeks. We need to get out of this crazy time with at least the minimum benefit that we can muster. 

Make the time. Get fresh air. Keep as much distance away from people as you can. Pass your classes. Embrace and respect science. Good luck!    

Wishing you all the best possible, 

Dr. B 

Dr. Patrick Burkhart

Dr. Patrick Burkhart has been on the faculty at SRU for over 20 years.  He is a geologist who loves landscapes, clean water, wildlife, healthy ecosystems, big adventure and happy students.

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