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  • Sincerely, Southern

GS professors undergo physical and mental tolls of the pandemic

By MacKenzie Stewart

Photo courtesy of Gina Germani

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, affecting different people in different ways. Losing loved ones. Mental and physical health issues. Lost jobs. Everyone has been affected in some capacity.

When the COVID-19 outbreak began in Statesboro, Georgia in March 2020, Georgia Southern University students were left clueless on how to finish out their spring semester, some of whom had never engaged in online learning in their collegiate career. The pressure fell on GS professors to somehow convert all of their content and assignments into an online format accessible to students remotely.

This included learning how to conduct lectures via Zoom or Google Meets, uploading recorded lectures to Folio and beginning to navigate how to conduct quizzes and tests that are designed to be given in the classroom setting.

“I’m a big believer in arranging online content for access reasons, regardless of the pandemic,” said Gina Germani, a journalism lecturer at GS. “But it was difficult and time consuming to translate hands-on activities into an online format and on some days, I’d be up until the early hours of the morning transferring content over.”

Professors were put on a tight timeline to transform their courses into an online format while still upholding standards to ensure their students were actually learning the material.

“I love using Zoom because it keeps that face-to-face element of teaching,” said Germani. “But the issue that I had was getting students to be engaged in virtual classes and not curled up in bed or driving down the street. I had to be strict about actual participation.”

University communications and marketing departments continuously send out emails to students, offering nods of encouragement and resources for students to access to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety during the pandemic. What are universities doing to offer and provide support for their educators? Are professors receiving the same gentle encouragement as students are?

“I think the university did a great job providing moral support and words of encouragement for their faculty and staff,” said William Biebuyck, an assistant professor for political science and international studies. “The Center for Teaching Excellence was also a great resource that has been provided to us as a tool for navigating the online teaching format so as an educator, I really appreciate that.”

In order for professors to stay committed to their jobs and to their students, they should also be receiving some form of encouragement or resources to assist their needs as well. Supporters need support systems too.

“Something that I feel could have been done differently is how the university handled the requirement of partial in-person classes,” said Biebuyck. “I feel that the individual professors and departments have a better understanding of how their course should be delivered and it was difficult to get students to show up for in-person sessions during the pandemic.”

Although GS professors have faced their fair share of trials and tribulations during the pandemic, we as students have to wonder how they did it.

“I feel very lucky in many ways,” said Sarah McCarroll, an associate professor of theatre at Georgia Southern. “I was able to keep my job and continue to teach my students the art. Things were definitely different and nontraditional, but I am fortunate to work with students who persevered and made it work.”

Although teaching and learning during the pandemic were strange and nontraditional experiences, students and professors alike persevered with almost three semesters down and classes tentatively returning to in-person delivery for fall 2021.

“I’m very excited to have my students back in the classroom full time in the fall,” said McCarroll. “I’m choking up now just thinking about it but I’m going to cry when I’m able to be back in the space and see my students do a live performance for the first time in a while.”

Students, while spring semester comes to a close and you head out for summer break, remember to thank an educator. They deserve it.

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