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During the Spring Semester of 2020, I was teaching two of my favorite classes—From Rock and Roll to Hip Hop—which had nearly 40 students, and my research seminar in African American and Urban Studies, where I was supervising 10 students writing their senior theses.

Age of Corona

When the Pandemic hit, classes moved online, and everyone had to leave campus, my students and I were fearful and in some cases traumatized by the COVID-19's impact on their families and their futures. A few had family members who were essential workers and feared catching the virus; some faced sudden impoverishment because their parents lost jobs; many mourned the loss of an opportunity to experience a live graduation, and two students, both Bronx residents, had parents who had caught the virus and were deathly ill.

Given the emotional distress my students were in, I decided that my primary goal was to lift my student's spirits and give them an opportunity to express how they felt.about what was happening to them.

Given the emotional distress my students were in, I decided that my primary goal was to lift my student's spirits and give them an opportunity to express how they felt.about what was happening to them.

I did this in several ways; first I tried to cheer them up with humorous short rap videos I made for them. Secondly, I changed course requirements so all exams were take home and students had ample time to complete their work. Third, I gave my thesis students the opportunity of writing Coronavirus diaries if it was impossible to complete the research they had initially undertaken. Fourth, I scheduled Friday afternoon Happy Hours where students could unwind and share their feeling. And fifth I allowed students to post songs which made them feel better during all our online class sessions

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By the middle of April, I started to see the results of these strategies. Students began submitting work of superior quality, given an opportunity to choose essay subjects that meant something to them, students started class projects of their own which got their classmates excited, one of which a Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project which is still going strong this summer, and most gratifying, student after student thanked me for not pretending this was a normal academic experience, for showing that I cared about their well being and mental health, and for giving them the opportunity to write about subjects they cared about.

I am taking their energy and enthusiasm into my approach to the Fall Semester. At age 74, I don't feel safe going into an indoor classroom so I applied to teach remotely. That is what I will do every Friday, but on Tuesdays, I will be meeting my classes outdoors on Edwards Parade where we will be wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and bringing our sound systems so we can play some music!

My students are excited about this teaching opportunity and so am I. And I expect to get some great work on written assignments which I will tailor to students feelings as much as to the course material we will be covering

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Mark Naison
With a Brooklyn Accent