Common Texts in an Uncommon Place: Intertextual Artifacts from a Quarantined Academic Life

Samantha Looker-Koenigs


In mid-March 2020, as we in U.S. academia rushed ourselves and our courses off our campuses and onto the internet, we experienced, along with the rest of our country, a jarring collision of selves and worlds that we normally kept separate. One person might be a teacher, a parent, an administrator, a spouse, a scholar, a citizen, a patient, and many other roles besides—but many of these roles only demanded our participation at certain points in a day or week, many of these were hats we could don and remove as needed. Now, suddenly, we and all our roles, along with our family members and all their roles, were quarantined simultaneously in far too little square footage, physical and mental, to comfortably contain it all.

Now, about two and a half months later, I pause to look back on how I adjusted to the experience of being a quarantined teacher/parent/scholar/etc., an experience in which both my physical self and my thoughts have had far too little square footage in which to spread out and maintain a sense of normalcy. As I look back, I see evidence of all the roles I played simultaneously and all the ways that the many aspects of my life intersected. And as a staunch advocate of in-depth, immersive qualitative research, I see my individual experience as one worth documenting and analyzing, because of where it might show intersections with other individual experiences and because of what those individual experiences together might begin to suggest about the whole. And I love that the Documentarian project has encouraged so many of us to do exactly this–has encouraged us, as Julie, Bump, and Bree said in an email, to see each of our stories as “a radically generative partiality.”

I will be honest: I rather sucked at filling out the twice-daily Documentarian surveys in late March. I started notes for most of them, but I only actually completed and submitted a few. I hugely appreciated the project organizers’ efforts to keep us motivated in our documentation; I just discovered, in the unprecedented conditions in which I found myself, that I was no longer motivated by deadlines or rituals like I am under more typical circumstances. What motivated me to write during the week of CCCC 2020, and what has motivated me to write since then, is a confluence of much more complex factors, one that mirrors the confluence of selves that I have been in these recent months. I wrote when I felt my students needed me. I wrote when I felt the instructors in my program and other university colleagues needed me. I wrote when something within me was bursting to be said, and I had an audience in mind that might benefit from hearing it. I wrote when I was up in the middle of the night nursing my toddler back to sleep and my mind, free to wander and reflect, had made some new connection that I wanted to remember.

What I want to do here, then, is use a collection of my writing to tell a story, even though only a very small portion of the writing included here was originally done as part of the Documentarian project. Because as I was a Documentarian, I was simultaneously a teacher, writing program administrator, mother, scholar, and public citizen, and a true story of these past months will embrace the distributed and intertextual nature of my writing and my life.

March 14, 2020

At the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, our last day of face-to-face instruction for the Spring 2020 semester was Thursday, March 12—a fact which we learned on Thursday, March 12. As the director of our campus’s First-Year Writing Program, I immediately began working, with help from several amazing and knowledgeable colleagues, to gather information and suggestions to help our first-year writing instructors move their classes online. On Friday, March 13, our overloaded and absolutely wonderful online learning environment support staff helped me create an emergency professional development “class” page on Canvas for all our FYW instructors. That day and the next, a colleague and I worked on populating that page with tutorials, links, discussion spaces, and advice. With the goal of encouraging my program’s instructors (and myself) toward realistic goals and thoughtful priorities, I wrote a list of best practice recommendations for the page, from which the following is excerpted.

This list is not intended as best practices for online writing instruction in general—a couple of the things listed here do indeed fall into that category, but best practice for online writing instruction is a rich body of knowledge, and its application depends on abundant time and resources for training, research, and planning. We are talking now about doing the best we can in the absence of anything remotely resembling abundant time and resources.

Prioritize. Think about the most important functions your class serves for your students, and focus your attention on how to achieve those functions. I would argue that the number-one function of our first-year writing classes is to give our students the opportunity to practice their writing with abundant feedback throughout the process, so I would encourage you to devote your greatest amount of energy to making sure you can assign writing, give resources and guidance to help students complete that writing, collect that writing, give meaningful feedback on that writing, and if possible get students talking to one another about that writing. 

Give yourself permission to cut. It is completely acceptable to remove some elements from your original class design and to modify some elements into a less-than-ideal but far-more-feasible format. Some parts of your usual class just won't happen this semester, and that is okay.

Ask about your students’ resources. Before assuming that any particular thing will be possible in your class, see what resources your students have access to. Don’t assume that all of them have their own computers, or that they will have access to sufficiently reliable and fast internet access for synchronous activities. 

Be explicit. In an online teaching environment, you don’t have a lot of the usual comprehension check opportunities that happen face-to-face, so you should assume that nothing goes without saying. Tell students your exact expectations for discussion posts, online submission of essays, etc. Explain to them exactly how you will be responding to their work. 

Be flexible and compassionate. Your students are all stressed and out of their routines. They don’t have access to all the technology and resources that they normally have. Some of them have been forced to head back to situations that are less safe, caring, or stable than their dorm life was. They may be experiencing major hardships related to a disruption in employment. They may become sick or have to care for sick loved ones. Meanwhile, you also are stressed, juggling new challenges, and might get sick, and should avoid stressing yourself further by striving for perfection. Encourage your students to see your online classroom as a space of compassion: We will understand that we’re not doing our very best work right now. We will anticipate technical and life difficulties and be flexible about deadlines and requirements. We will make this work.

March 15, 2020

With my program’s instructors set up with the beginnings of some resources to get them started, I turned to starting the monumental process of moving my own classes online. I posted the below announcement on my first-year writing class’s Canvas page, three days after we last saw each other in person. In all of the frantic reading I was doing about best practices for moving online quickly, one point that resonated strongly with me was the importance of avoiding radio silence: Our students were incredibly anxious in this moment, so even if we didn’t yet know what exactly we’d be doing with our classes, we should reach out to them and say something to reassure them that we were thinking about them and working on it. (After sending this message to my class, I posted it, along with the recommendation to avoid radio silence, on the FYW professional development page’s discussion board as well.)

Hi friends,

I’m currently working on getting our class moved online. I will update you throughout the week as I get the changes to our schedule and assignments figured out.

What I know for sure so far:

  • There will be nothing expected of you until the week of March 30. 
  • I will definitely be removing some reading and/or writing assignments from our original schedule.
  • I will definitely be adding some flexibility on deadlines.
  • I will not be requiring any synchronous activities for this class (things where everyone is required to be online at the same time).

In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments, information to share, or concerns, please share them:

  • Share here on the discussion board if you have info that others in the class might want to know, a question or concern that you’re betting others have too, or anything that you’d like your peers’ thoughts on.
  • Send me an email if you have info, a suggestion, or a question that you’d like to keep private between me and you.
  • Share on my anonymous Google form if you have a question, concern, suggestion, etc. that you’d like me to see without me knowing it’s from you.

More soon,

Dr. Sam

March 25, 2020

The timing of my campus’s end to face-to-face classes meant that we had about a two-week break to get everything online before instruction resumed—one week that would have been our seventh week of regular instruction and one that would have been our Spring Break, which was also the week in which CCCC would have happened. By halfway through this period, I had the basic structure of all of my newly-online courses figured out: which readings and assignments were staying and going, how the grading breakdowns were changing, what online lessons and activities I would need to create to make up for lost classroom instruction. The second week, then, was my time to work on the details. But what a time to have to focus on work—death tolls climbing, political divides increasing, massive discrepancies in who could and couldn’t keep themselves safe, who could and couldn’t count on their leaders to protect them. Even people for whom life was going relatively well were mourning the loss of normalcy and long-looked-forward-to plans—such as, for us in rhetoric and writing studies, CCCC. I had signed up to be a Documentarian, back in what now felt like a different lifetime, and so I was invited to contribute my experiences to the online Documentarian surveys. I was, as I already said, terrible at this. But there are a few captured moments worth sharing here. The text below is cobbled together from my submission to the Wednesday Morning Daily Survey.

Today was going to be a travel day. I was going to drive down with my husband and son from Appleton, about 2 hours north of the conference location. I would have been very, very

excited. Instead, I am working today on translating my courses to online. I need to work specifically on my first-year writing class, which needs a lesson structure built in order to replace the in-class scaffolding of the students’ research process that would normally have happened. I have a to-do list, and I tend to just pick a task and get going on that for as long as it takes to finish. My day, since quarantining at home, is always divided into morning and afternoon, with a break in the middle to hang out with my husband and son and have lunch. I am a bit overwhelmed by everything that needs doing, but I also feel capable of it. I feel a strong obligation to my students, and that’s driving me.

March 26, 2020

This day, for me, involved intense mourning of normalcy. Since CCCC would have been in Milwaukee, I would have been able to bring my family along from our home in Appleton, not quite two hours north. CCCC is always a place where I feel like a truly whole person, since it is a step in much of my scholarly research activity, a constant source of teaching ideas, and also a gathering place for many of my dearest friends in the world. I had been so very excited about the even greater wholeness I was going to feel this year as a result of bringing my family to the conference. The following is part of my submission for the Thursday Morning Daily Survey.

I would have been giving my presentation today, presumably attending some great panels, and then this evening would be possibly the thing I was most looking forward to: bringing my husband and 19-month-old son to my grad school alma mater’s happy hour. The last time I attended our CCCC happy hour, I was about four months pregnant with my son. I was so, so excited to get to introduce him (and my husband, whom I met post-grad school) to many of my favorite people for the first time.

March 28, 2020

I wrote the paragraph below while up nursing my son in the middle of the night. It started as a response to the Saturday Evening Survey, but I never submitted that survey. I started writing some answers in my phone’s notepad, as I had for some of the other surveys; before I could finish, I fell asleep in the nursery chair with my son in my lap. The next days were so full of frantic work and more urgent audiences for my writing that I just never got back to it.

Tonight one of my dearest grad school friends, motivated by our loss of CCCC happy hour, gathered a group of us together for a Zoom call. There were ten of us in the call, all former students of the UIUC Writing Studies Ph.D. program. The conversation was infused with a strong sense of relief, like some little thing was right with the world now that we could see each other. Each of us must have said “It’s so good to see you all” at least three or four times throughout the conversation. I joined the call on my phone from my living room, where my husband and son were playing; I occasionally arranged things to get them in the frame with me. We may not have been physically together, and a few of the faces I most wanted to see were missing, but I GOT TO INTRODUCE MY HUSBAND AND SON to some of my beloved grad school friends. I am reminded that technology can help us get through this.

March 30, 2020

Monday, March 30, marked our campus’s first day of online instruction. I had most things ready to go, though I would of course be continually creating additional lessons and discussion posts as we progressed through our material. Throughout the previous week, instead of being at CCCC, I had been posting revised syllabi and schedules and everything we would need in my classes for the first week back. All that remained for me to provide on this first day of instruction, then, were reminders and encouragement. This was the announcement I posted to my junior- and senior-level rhetoric and writing theory class.

Hi friends, and welcome to the start of our online half-semester. I hope that all of you are safe and healthy and feeling resilient and cared for, but I also know that everything is scary and sucky, this move to online classes being no exception. My goal for the coming seven weeks (and beyond—once my student, always my student) is to help you try to maintain some sense of normalcy and progress toward your educational goals. That doesn’t mean I expect this class, or any part of school, to be your #1 priority, but it does mean that I want you to get enough learning done that you can feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth for the semester and are that much closer to your major, minor, or other goals. And in the process, we can try to keep each other company and feed our intellectual curiosity with topics other than epidemiology, which feels like a good goal to me.

So! For this week, the workload is really light—you need some time and energy to adjust to being online students during a damn pandemic. Just make sure that you look over all the final project materials and that you read Thaiss and Zawacki and participate in the reading discussion for this week (also make sure to look at the instructions and expectations for reading discussions). There are direct links to all of this week’s to-do list items on the revised schedule. 

If you need anything, you can email me, post on the general question/comment board, visit online office hours this Thursday, or post to the anonymous Google form. Take care of yourselves, first and foremost.


Dr. Sam

April 4, 2020

Starting in our first week off campus, the fantastic director of our campus’s teaching and learning center, also an English department colleague, began sending out a weekly email newsletter to all instructional staff titled “Tips for Teaching during a Pandemic.” Each week, this newsletter featured reminders, resources from campus and beyond, and tips and testimonials from campus faculty and staff. Being a department colleague, the director was aware of my work helping first-year writing instructors through our online transition and asked me if I would be willing to contribute a testimonial. I was excited, and I decided to use the opportunity to get a wider audience for both my own ideas and the views of my students. This is what I wrote. 

When I was asked to write a tip, I reached out to my first-year and upper-level students and asked them to tell me what they would like UWO instructors to know right now. There were two consistent themes in their comments: One, they are grateful for the work we’re putting in to help them complete their educational goals for this semester, especially from those of us for whom online teaching is not at all normal or comfortable. And two, they need some breathing room. It is taking them significant time and effort to adjust to being online learners, just as it is taking us significant time and effort to adjust to being online instructors. Many of them have additional household or work responsibilities now. And they know that things are going to get worse: They anticipate that, even if they don’t themselves become sick, they may become deeply stressed by the responsibility of caring for (or just caring about) sick loved ones, not to mention the responsibility of simply existing in a world that gets scarier by the day. 

In her book Bandwidth Recovery, educational equity expert Cia Verschelden talks about the disparities in “mental bandwidth” that students have available for focusing on their classwork; she illustrates how the day-to-day experience of scarcity and fear that accompanies poverty, racism, and other sorts of oppression occupies brain space that is then not available for learning. During this pandemic, we could say that we now have a universal day-to-day experience of scarcity and fear that is occupying the brain space of every single one of our students—on top of the experiences of marginalization still sapping yet more bandwidth from some of our students. We have to understand that our students will not be able to accomplish everything that they would have accomplished in a normal semester, and that this is not any individual failing of theirs (or ours!) but a feature of being a citizen of the current world. I’d like to say to all of my colleagues what I’ve said to the instructors in our first-year writing program: Please, if you haven’t already, cut some elements from your original plans for the semester. Return to your class’s goals and learning outcomes and identify the most important functions your class serves for your students, and focus your attention and your assignments on achieving those functions. The act of letting some less essential elements go is not a blow to the rigor of your class; it is a boost to the likelihood that your students will accomplish your class’s most vital learning. 

April 5, 2020

As we entered our second month of pandemic life in the U.S., I finally began to feel like I could slow my pace of being a frantic consumer and conduit of information, and like I could do some writing that wasn’t in response to an immediate workplace need. Flawed as it is, Facebook is the platform I often turn to first when I feel the need to reach out to a broader community with my writing, because it is where I am connected simultaneously with people from so many areas of my life: colleagues, former students, family members, friends old and new, other professionals in the field, members of my local community. I felt compelled to write the below post after a particularly invigorating online discussion with one of my classes, which had me feeling hopeful about this emergency online teaching experience being something that could actually have long-lasting positive effects. I reproduce it here because it represents both that hopeful moment and a confluence of selves—me as a teacher and scholar, speaking publicly to an audience well beyond academia about how we treat our student writers.

Those of us who are teachers, but not usually online teachers, have a unique opportunity right now. I bet that all of us say things in our face-to-face classes every day that we’re really proud of, and we experience a flash of “Oh, I’m so glad I thought to make that point” or “I’ll have to remember this idea”—but there’s no record of what we said, and we often quickly forget it. But with our discussions and lessons now happening in discussion boards and videos, we have exact records of our teaching. How exciting! I think we should use this opportunity to catalog some teaching moments that we’re really proud of—to remember for sharing with future classes, to read through or watch on days that we’re feeling insecure, and also, if we feel comfortable doing so, to share with broader audiences. I would absolutely LOVE to see my teaching-from-home friends regularly posting excerpts of the insightful, invigorating things they’re telling their students. 

Here’s one that I was proud of recently and will save to my “Hey, you’re an okay teacher” file: This past week, my upper-level rhetoric and writing theory class read an excerpt from the first chapter of Chris Thaiss and Terry Myers Zawacki’s Engaged Writers and Dynamic Disciplines in which the authors contrast the complex, nuanced qualities that distinguish professional academic writing with the oversimplified rules for academic writing that are often communicated to students. On our discussion board, two students were particularly drawn to T & Z’s example of “Avoid the first person” as a rule that is commonly told to student writers. One recalled lessons in both high school and first-year college writing explicitly forbidding the use of the first person, and another responded by observing that the first-year writers they work with as a writing center tutor seem to fear not just using “I” but being present in their writing in any significant way. Both students acknowledged that there are ways to do the first person wrong, but that it seems unfair and counterproductive to forbid it altogether. Here’s my contribution to their thread, which I’m happy about both for the teaching it did in the moment and for the record it created of a routine first-year writing lesson that, until now, lived only in my head:

I am with you both 100%. Early on in every [first-year writing] class of mine, typically on the second day, we talk about what rules the students have learned for writing in the past. I ask how many of them were at some point told not to start a sentence with “because.” Inevitably there are quite a few hands raised. Then I launch into an explanation of subordinate clauses, and how the subordinate clause can’t stand by itself as a complete sentence, so you can’t just write, “Because it’s a little cold outside” and call it a sentence. But, I tell them, that was kind of a complicated explanation, right? If I wanted to keep you from ever trying to write that as a complete sentence, it would be a lot easier for me to just say “Never start a sentence with because”—even though a sentence like “Because it’s a little cold outside, I wore a jacket on my walk” is completely acceptable, even though I’m basically forbidding you an entire sentence construction that really should be part of the repertoire of a skilled writer. And then I tell them that a lot of the other rules they’ve learned for academic writing are exactly like this: They’re a choice to, rather than explain a complicated rule or a situation with a lot of nuance and no clear right/wrong, simply give a quick, blanket rule that will stop the situation from ever coming up—and, in the process, stop a lot of other perfectly acceptable writing from happening. “Don’t use I,” I tell them, is probably the worst offender of this bunch. Rather than explaining to you the details of how “I” might sometimes be overused, or detrimental to your voice/ethos, or indicative that you’ve strayed too far away from the sources you’re supposed to be focusing on for a specific assignment, or a sign of any number of more complex issues in your writing—but how it can also be incredibly useful and empowering and part of an authoritative academic voice—some people in your past have chosen to simply say “Don’t use I” and avoid that discussion altogether. And they have done you one heck of a disservice.

April 16, 2020

As we settled into the rhythms of online learning, the rhythms of the rest of life became more and more dissonant. Public health became partisan as some people began to question the need for quarantine and other safety measures, and even the reality of the virus itself. In my state of Wisconsin, our Republican legislature thwarted our Democratic governor’s efforts to postpone our primary election, and a great many Wisconsin citizens were forced to go vote in person despite the risk to their safety. (I wrote publicly about this too, but that piece lacks any overt connections to my teaching or scholarship, so I’m not including it here.) Our governor was also, like several governors in surrounding states, under attack from both state citizens and external groups contending that stay-at-home orders were unlawful and tyrannical. Instead of blaming unemployment and other financial crises on the virus, people were increasingly blaming them on the public officials who were working to keep us safe from the virus. I was so tired of seeing blame placed in the wrong places, and I felt that an analogous sort of misplaced blame was present among some university educators too, so I wrote the following on my Facebook page.

Last week, I contributed a brief essay to our university’s teaching and learning center’s weekly newsletter, which has been distributing faculty tips and inspiration for online teaching. My essay talked about the negative effects of the pandemic on our students’ available “mental bandwidth” (credit to Cia Verschelden for this concept) and encouraged my colleagues to pare away some less essential assignments and lessons from their original plans for their classes. I concluded with the sentence “The act of letting some less essential elements go is not a blow to the rigor of your class; it is a boost to the likelihood that your students will accomplish your class’s most vital learning.”

A colleague reached out to question me on this: Could I really be saying that our classes this semester are not less rigorous than normal? If so, they vehemently disagreed. I wrote back to clarify: Absolutely, I agree that our classes are less rigorous this semester. What I had meant to say was that, if we choose to pare away some less essential elements, our adjustments will not be the CAUSE of that loss of rigor. The loss of rigor is an absolutely inescapable result of trying to educate during a pandemic in an environment wildly different from the one we designed our classes for. It is a fact, completely independent of anything we do or don’t do. In the face of that unavoidable loss of rigor, then, we have a choice: We can stubbornly insist on continuing to try to teach everything we normally do, and most of our students will inevitably fall behind, randomly completing or not completing assignments as they are able, likely missing some of the ones that are most vital to the learning goals of our classes. Or, we can make a conscious decision to cut some things, thus channeling our students’ limited time and brain space into the learning that we deem most essential for our classes. In sum, we can take an unavoidable problem and either mitigate its harm by adjusting our behavior or make it infinitely worse by refusing to adjust to it.

And this is what I feel like all of the “Reopen America” people, the protestors arming themselves against their own governors and insisting on the sacrifice of our grandparents for the sake of the economy, are either failing to understand or willfully choosing to ignore: We have a bad thing that is happening—in this case, that our economy is pretty thoroughly screwed for a while. But this is HAPPENING, completely independently of anything we do or don’t do; it is caused by a virus, not by anything humans can control, and there is no scenario in which our economy doesn’t take a substantial hit for a substantial amount of time. In the face of that unavoidable bad thing, we get to make a choice between stubbornly insisting upon trying to do everything exactly as we normally would and thus making the problem infinitely worse, or modifying our behavior in light of it so that we keep its negative effects to the bare unavoidable minimum. If we maintain all of our social distancing, business closures, and stay at home orders, tens of thousands of people die and the economy suffers. That’s the bare unavoidable minimum that we can’t control. If we force people back out before we have significantly better testing and tracking apparatus in place than we currently do, the economy still suffers, but also tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands MORE people die.

To me, the correct path for citizens is just as obvious as the correct path for teachers: Accept that you cannot control much of what is happening. Choose to act in ways that will minimize harm. Realize that, as much as you may wish you could continue doing things exactly as normal, insisting upon doing so will actually make the situation infinitely worse.

May 20, 2020

As I look back now and work on this piece, I have finished the semester. Our campus will still be online for the summer, and I expect that many of our classes will be online in the fall too. (I am in fact pushing for online classes in my own program as much as I can, given how much of the vital collaborative work of a writing class would be impossible in a socially-distanced face-to-face classroom.) My students, my colleagues, and I have carried ourselves and one another through a semester of absolutely unprecedented challenges. When I think about the evidence of the semester’s work—students’ work completed and grades achieved, my lessons posted and feedback provided—I realize that I and my students have come through the semester much better than I imagined possible when this started. But then I think about why that is, and what structural inequalities we will need to work on if we are to keep ourselves going through the course of this pandemic. This thinking was the motivation for the last Facebook post I’ll share.

Finishing up my graduate student grades now, but all my undergraduate students’ grades are in, and I just need to share my joy. I had to heavily prod a few of them across that finish line, but I gave only a single F this semester (and that student chose their F, knowing that they probably could have rushed to submit their missing work but feeling that they really haven’t been engaged with their learning enough this semester and would prefer to retake the class). So, amidst a pandemic, with an unplanned transition to online learning and countless stressors, ALL BUT ONE of my 45 undergrads passed. And we’re not talking any of that D+ sort of passing that they could request to have converted to a “Pass Other” under this semester’s emergency pass/fail grading option. We’re talking a solid C or higher—a true pass by any standards. I AM SO PROUD I COULD BURST.

To put a needed activist/cynical spin on the situation, though, I think my experience neatly illustrates how student success and retention are tied not only to the students’ privilege levels but also those of their instructors. If I hadn’t been able to intrusively, obnoxiously keep tabs on any students who started falling behind, I’m certain I would have recorded a minimum of six Fs today, quite possibly more. And what made me able to keep tabs as well as I did? I had three courses this semester, whereas many of my colleagues who are faculty without course releases or non-tenure-line instructors have four or even five. I have an unemployed spouse who has been able to do full-time parenting duties while I work. (It feels rather bizarre to think of unemployment as a privilege, but in the current situation, when there are so many households in which all the adults have to work full time while also caring for and educating their children, it definitely feels like a privilege to have a spouse who can receive some income while still being available for full-time parenting.) No one in my house is an “essential” worker, or facing a situation in which we have to choose between our safety and our financial security because their employer is allowed to be and has chosen to reopen and thus they can no longer claim unemployment—all of which saves us significant time, money, and stress.

So—I say similar things regularly, but they feel especially close to home today: If you’re an educational leader, government leader, or parent (or none of these and just someone who cares about young people and our future), and you want young people to be set up for success, make noise in favor of funding—for schools, for healthcare, for people. A school receiving decent (or even just mildly inadequate, rather than pathetically, disgustingly inadequate) funding is going to be able to give its teachers a more manageable number of students and classes so that they can keep tabs on our young people and ensure their success, rather than having to push everyone to their absolute limit to save money. An instructor (and their family members) who has access to quality healthcare, unemployment support, childcare support, parental leave, etc. is going to have the time and resources necessary to make sure their students succeed. Far too many people subscribe to the belief that it’s vital to send their children to college, while at the same time actively opposing, or electing people who actively oppose, the funding that would ensure their children can SUCCEED at college.

This is far from the end of the story. Even now in early June, as I prepare to submit a first draft of this piece, the United States is in a state of upheaval as public willingness to tolerate violent and racist policing practices reaches its limit. My words from less than two months ago, lamenting political divisiveness related to COVID-19, already feel outdated and naïve compared to the current divisions, the seemingly impassable chasm between those seeking to dismantle racist law enforcement structures and prioritize black lives and those committed to upholding an authoritarian (and inescapably white supremacist) brand of policing and government. On a less life-or-death but still important note, my words in the paragraph above, from only a few weeks ago, also feel outdated and naïve in their rather abstract discussion of a failure to support higher education, now that my University of Wisconsin System has named someone who completely decimated higher education in Alaska as the sole finalist in our System President search. I shudder to think how the current paragraph might feel outdated and naïve in a few more weeks or months. And yet I have no choice but to remain hopeful, since this is baked into so many of my identities and roles. I research because I believe inquiry and knowledge matter. I teach because I believe people can learn to do and be better. I gave birth to a child because I believe we can keep working to make the world something we’d want our children to inherit. And the close quarters of this strange time have reaffirmed for me how well the goals and priorities of my many identities reinforce one another. So in response to the constant and unpredictable change of this moment and this life, I will keep pushing and reinventing—my scholarship, my public discourse, my parenting, my pedagogy, myself.