Zooming into the Unknown: A Letter of Gratitude to Our College Professors

It was Friday, March 6. 

I came home for my spring break from Winona State University. I carpooled with good friends through Wisconsin to the agreed-upon drop off point so my family could drive me back to Illinois.

It was supposed to be a time full of promise—a break from the rigor of spring semester, a chance to catch up on some much-needed rest and relaxation.

At the time of publishing this—May 3—it has been 58 days in quarantine. 

And while it has been hard transitioning to online school, the faculty and staff of WSU deserve a strong thank-you every day, but especially on May 5, which is National Teacher Appreciation Day. Below, you will read a letter I have written to express my gratitude for those who are continuing to educate us in these unprecedented times.

 

Dear Professors, Faculty and Staff,

I want to write this to say thank you. 

Rather, I want to gather in your offices, which are full of accolades and testaments to what great educators you are, and say it personally. 

But gathering isn’t allowed, and neither is being together in our element, our campus. We’re all out of our element.

When we got the news of our extended spring break—for the first time—it felt kind of like an extra breath of air. 

It wasn’t ideal.

But we’re young college students and we have a tendency to gripe about things...until we didn’t know how good we had it, hustling to our on-campus classes.

When the notice came in that all instruction would be through ‘alternative methods,’ I felt my heart drop. 

And I can imagine yours had done the same at the first spring break extension.

For you all, this meant converting all your hard work into condensed versions. 

You had poignant speeches to give, engaging group work to facilitate and conversations with us—your students—to teach you something as well along the way.

You had ceremonies to be a part of: honorary inductions, research presentations and commencement.

You were looking forward to sharing in the graduates’ success because you walked alongside them in their time at WSU.

And that all fell apart, in a physical sense.

I cannot even imagine the stress it took reworking syllabuses, figuring out how to make Zoom work on a professional, collegiate level and all the other innerworkings I have no idea about as your pupil. 

So, I want to thank you for what I’ve seen you do and all I haven’t. 

I want to thank you for all the emails. 

Your Outlooks must have been overflowing with panicked messages from students like me. And you handled us with compassionate resolve. 

And patience. So much patience.  

When it was announced we had to build the boat for next semester when we were castaways in uncharted territory during the current one, you were our captains and our anchors.

You have shown us the importance of organization, whether that be in your D2L pages, your emails and your planning abilities.

You have shown us how to be accountable. The ceaseless hours you put in—hard work—to administer our education is incredible.

You want us to get our tuition money’s worth; the lessons you’re giving us right now are priceless.

You haven’t lost your humanity, your humor. 

The same things we love about you as a lecturer or professor are still there; maybe it’s even amplified because that consistency in who you are, what you stand for is tethering us.

Maybe that comes in the form of funny Zoom backgrounds or reassuring messages at the bottom of emails. 

It’s appreciated. You’re appreciated.

It has only been four weeks of online work, but it has felt like a whole semester. And it might’ve even felt like preparing a four-year degree in four weeks’ time for you all.

So, I say thank you.

Thank you for the commitment to your students because we look up to you.

Thank you for the long hours because they will pay off, even if we can’t tell how yet.

Thank you for making Zoom bearable with your smiles and adaptability.

Thank you for your patience because this is new to us too.

Thank you for the reassurance because it’s what keeps us human.

Thank you for teaching us in the classrooms we can no longer occupy and giving us lessons to extend much further than the campus.

Thank you. Truly.

 

Sincerely,

A Very Grateful Student

 

I hope in reading this letter, you thought of someone you’d also like to thank. Thank the parents who have now added pre-calculus to their work-from-home responsibilities. Thank your peers who are helping you through these times. Thank yourself for having the willpower to learn in this environment and teach yourself how to handle what life is throwing at you.

Because at this time, we all have something to learn. And we need people to help teach us.