A Letter to My Students

How one professor reaches out to students during COVID-19.

Posted Mar 25, 2020 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

In two previous post this week, I have identified some ways that professors can approach teaching amidst COVID-19 and how parents can respond to these challenges as well. After several e-mail communications with my students in the past two weeks, I sent them this message last night, embodying the spirit of those two articles and attempting to convey to them what truly matters. Thirty-four years ago, when I was just 16 years old, Robert Fulghum published the famous book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I remain convinced that this credo is true now more than ever. Let this semester be one that years from now students will remember like this: all I really need to know I learned during COVID-19. That is possible if we help guide students to stay connected to what matters most. So, here's what I told them:

Deborah J. Cohan, Ph.D.
Source: Deborah J. Cohan, Ph.D.

Hi All,

I hope you are all safe and okay! I am writing to announce a few things as I know them and will continue to be in touch with more as the days unfold. Please read this ***thoroughly.*** 

I have opened a discussion board for the purpose of sharing inspiration at a darkly complicated point in our lives. Leonard Cohen said, "There's a crack, a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in." We can see with a sociological lens that the cracks are everywhere—on the surface and much deeper—economically, socially, politically, etc, etc. A sociological perspective can help us locate the light—how to blast that into our individual and collective lives. Be the light!! I invite you to post in the discussion board to sustain a sense of community. This is not about grades. It is about shared humanity. 

Please know a few things going forward on a practical level:

  • I care about you, and yeah, this sucks. 
  • I am living by, and sharing with you, what I heard a meditation teacher say recently: RAIN=Recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture! These are all great practices and life skills; do them and use them!!
  • I honor what I said in the articles I wrote. 
  • I invite you to post a reaction to those articles in the **separate ** discussion thread I created for that. I have already received some comments and they are much appreciated. I want your feedback there.
  • We will not have any synchronous classes. I am well aware that many of you have loads of responsibilities and no one is necessarily free anymore at our class time. ( I truly hope you are not in other synchronous classes right now! ;))
  • There will not be another exam. 
  • The group project is canceled—unfortunately, since it is a very fun part of the class.
  • You may ***not*** take incompletes in this class. It is not sustainable.
  • I can arrange to talk with you by phone if you like. You would need to email me to make that happen.
  • I hope you will stay in school and follow your dreams. I am here to help you fulfill those. 
  • There will be a new grading plan for my class going forward since we will not have the next exam and we can no longer do group projects. The new plan will involve a substantial percentage of your final grade based on what you were previously earning before spring break when the following items are factored together—the test, attendance and participation, in-class writing, if you did extra credit, etc. This means that scores on Blackboard will soon look different. The other percentage will be based on an assignment I will be announcing very soon. This will honor those of you already earning very high grades in the class and will give others a chance to improve if you show engagement with what happens next. Again, read my articles if you have not. Please focus on what is most crucial right now. More details will be announced asap.
  • There is a lot I wish for each of you. These include, in no real order: good health, safety, a good data plan to connect with friends, resilience, freedom from suffering, peace, fresh coffee, a nap, a walk, yoga, toilet paper, the chance to try a new recipe, the time to try a new hobby, the chance to make a list of what really matters to you and what you need and want most right now, the chance to return to the sort of college experience I know can be most transformative, time to see a show or movie you have wanted to watch, a chance to call, not text, someone you love, a chance to read an interesting book, a chance to consider what the world could use more of and how you could be part of making that happen, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and an abundance of love. 

More coming soon. 

All my best,