An Open Letter to the Instructors Who Aren’t Comfortable with Technology (But Keep Trying)

I could see the frustration in your face when you had to sign in again because your internet kicked you off the Zoom call.

I could tell it was hard for you to ask for help because you feel like your position as an authority figure is dependent on being confident in every area of your classroom. You are worried we won’t respect you as much because you don’t know how to share your screen in this new format.

The video was choppy and the audio lagged even though you did it exactly right.

You cried after the last class because you were so frustrated and didn’t want us to know that.

You tried to schedule a break so that you could send your own kids off to tutoring or get them set up for their own online learning sessions, but the chaos started 20 minutes early. We could all see them in the background screaming because Kayden had cereal and Tyler wanted cereal, too, even though Tyler doesn’t like cereal and he was just going to end up leaving it on the counter, soggy and uneaten. You felt so bad for us that you could not give us your full attention. You felt so bad that you could not give the kids your full attention. You want to give your full attention to everything, even though you know, mathematically, that is not possible.

You spent hours every night for two weeks learning a new platform on your own and then it changed.

You used to hate your office and now you navigate a complex process, fighting to get in there for an hour this week.

You’re watching your students’ worlds fall apart, trying to keep a professional distance knowing that their cousin just passed, knowing your cousin just passed, trying to figure out how to keep holding them to the standard of brilliance you know they deserve to be held to while also knowing that life’s standards are punishing and merciless and maybe this is not the time to teach them that deadlines don’t always care about their family. You know that they know that. You know that every Native student has learned that before they got to you.

You are caught between the rock and the hard place of missing us, missing your classroom and the discussions, missing the joy of watching us learn in real time, and not wanting to bring a virus home to your family, especially because you live with your elderly mother.

One of your favorite students has developed a hacking cough and then didn’t show up for class the next week and you don’t know if they’re okay or not.

You’ve decided three times since March that this is your last year teaching and you always reverse your decision on days when the classroom discussion is amazing.

Your lecture runs a little long because this virus has made you acutely aware of your age and how much time you might actually have left and you want to impart as much wisdom to us as you can, while you can.

And yet despite all this, you assure us, in a steady, even voice, full of wisdom, full of compassion, full of power, that it’s okay. You sign back on for the third time today. You go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make it better next time. You send another email to IT, full of good humor. You reassure us that a screaming kid in the background of our calls does not make us a bad mom, that struggling to get through the modules does not mean we can’t do this.

We see you. We see you trying. We see you facing setbacks and coming back strong. We see you learning with us, navigating this bizarre situation that none of us has had training for. We see you trying to make this doable, making us think, keeping us engaged. We see you staying with us through the frustration, refusing to give up on us.

And we are so, so grateful.

Because when you keep showing up, you teach us how to keep showing up, too.

Jasmine Neosh is a student at College of Menominee Nation.

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