Franklin Roosevelt lived his life immersed in crises including polio, Prohibition, The Great Depression and World War II. But in spite of all this, he’s been noted for quotations concerning the defeat of hardship, one of which reads: “This great nation will endure as it has endured; will revive and will prosper.”
And that brings me to the crisis we now face, and how it will affect the delivery of our courses at this university during the coming days, weeks or months.
Some faculty are already well-versed in online teaching, otherwise known as distance education. But, for many of us in the arts, this mode of instruction represents uncharted territory. While it will require substantial alterations in our curricula, it will also provide students with far less of what we normally teach in populated, classroom environments.
Case in point: How does a student in ceramics create a perfectly cylindrical vessel without the aid of a potter’s wheel? That will never happen by watching online videos. It only happens with the personal, hands-on instruction that comes from an exceptional teacher in a face-to-face setting. And how does a musician practice the precise timing of an instrumental solo without the presence and the cadence of her cohorts in a quartet? That’s right, she doesn’t.
A true university education requires professors to have first-hand interactions with students, and that couldn’t be more factual when it comes to the arts. Demonstrations, dialogue, and perpetual, dedicated practice — these are the things that lead a student to be proficient with media, methods and techniques. And there is no electronic substitute for this well-proven brand of instruction.
But please know that I’m not here to place blame. This is not the fault of anyone on our campus, it’s simply the hand we’ve been dealt under exigent circumstances. University officials have bent over backwards to provide us with instructional resources, and faculty have risen to the occasion with arms outstretched.
We’re dedicated to bringing the most to our classes even with the smallest box of tools. We’ve been handed the proverbial basket of lemons, and now, we’ll proceed to the rewarding task of making lemonade.
Unlike the federal government, faculty at this university have rallied quickly and prepared vigorously in order to help those who depend on us and those whom we serve. We’re immensely dedicated to our students and see them as our highest priority. They’re the reason we get up early in the morning and seize the day. And as far as this crisis is concerned, I have great faith in the ancient phrase, “This too, shall pass.”