I had been saving my professional development (PD) money for five (now six) years, knowing that attending, participating in, CCCC was an extraordinary opportunity that was worth the wait, worth the sacrifices I had made as a faculty member.
I was invited by then-CCCC President, Julie Lindquist, to be a Documentarian at CCCC 2020, an honor I hurriedly accepted.
Then came COVID-19 and stole my expectations, everyone’s hard work, and their dreams, too.
The first thoughts I had when I began hearing reports of increased COVID-19-related cases were for the safety of my kid (they-them), a then-student of Michigan State University, and my WRA 101 (Writing as Inquiry) students. What would this mean to each of them? Would they be safe living and learning on campus? What about my colleagues?
By the second week of March, MSU’s campus was closed, classes were to resume in the online format, and my kid was back home, their dorm room items cluttering our home, erasing the hours I had spent on weekends during fall 2019 and the first of Spring 2020 decluttering.
The disease devastated my kid’s, my students’ on-campus learning and social experiences. COVID-19 transformed my teaching. The virus stole my CCCC experiences.
Social distancing was the new norm: six feet apart from people, a practice that went against my kid’s friendships, my way of teaching, especially, and my writing students’ way of learning.
My child was home, safe. I could, I would keep them healthy and away from possible infection.
My students: I missed them, even in that first week of teaching within the frame of my laptop.
I missed my colleagues, the interactions, the compassion, comradery, and trust our then-Department Chair had built over her first year and a half.
And I wouldn't be attending CCCC. I called the hotel and canceled my reservation. The hotel representative informed me that hundreds of others had already called and canceled, too. She sounded defeated.
I emailed Julie to cancel my CCCC attendance.
I informed my colleague that we would not be riding together to Wisconsin as I had canceled my hotel reservation due to the virus. She sounded as scared as I felt.
I returned to my office. I was angry. I was fearful for my child, my students and colleagues. Myself.
I closed my eyes for a moment of peace but instead saw emptiness. No people walking on campus. Empty classrooms. Students and colleagues alike have gone. There are more birds around, and I am grateful for their songs.
I miss the people, though, and their energy.
I miss the students waiting at the bus stop outside my office in Bessey Hall. In early fall and late spring, I hear their chatter outside my open window. Their talking sometimes sounded as the birds sound now in the emptiness of the campus: comforting, normal.
I imagine that the locations where CCCC was to be held are empty too, devoid of the energy and noise thousands of educators would have brought to the building and city.
I plan to attend CCCC 2021. I hope I am again invited to be a Documentarian.
Maybe by then my anger at the virus and subsequent inadequacy in The Orange Cockroach’s response will have abated.
Either way, CCCC 2020 is gone. Stolen. Eradicated by a virus.
I miss my colleagues. I miss my students. I miss the noise and the normalcy.
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