Jeffrey Seglin: From Here On In, I Rag Nobody

Jeffrey Seglin
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice," is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues. Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net. Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.

Nearly as soon as the announcements began that many college classes were going to be moving from in-person to online for the rest of the semester to increase social distancing and ideally lessen the spread of COVID-19, the tweets, memes and social media posts began.

The student variety poked fun at teachers clumsy with technology. The teacher variety bemoaned inattentive students. It’s hard to know if any of the events recounted really happened or how severe they really were if they did. More importantly, while a good laugh is important during tense times, it’s hard to know if such events really mattered.

These are extraordinary times, and in these exceptional times it seems a good bet that most teachers and most students are working hard to try to figure out how to continue working together to give and receive the best education they can.

For many college kids heading into spring break, good reason caused them to rethink their travel plans, and instead many headed home to be with family. For seniors it was likely they would not be having an in-person commencement ceremony and the next time they saw many of the friends that they’d spent the past four years with on campus would likely be months or years away, if ever. Nevertheless, in spite of sadness brought on by disappointment, most students took the warnings of public health experts seriously and recognized there was a greater good at stake.

For many college professors, instead of using spring break to catch up on a writing or research project or to spend time with family, dedication to wanting to deliver what they could to their students for the rest of the semester refocused their attention to learning new online platforms to connect with students and to tearing apart and revamping teaching plans so they had a hope of working in a virtual setting.

At my school, one professor spearheaded an effort for him and other professors to offer several one-hour voluntary online classes as a way of keeping the students connected during spring break and giving teachers and students a chance to work out some kinks in transitioning from in-person to online. At least 40 classes were offered. Hundreds of students participated throughout the week. Sure, some professors forgot to turn off cellphones and some students could be seen making a cup of tea in their kitchens, but that didn’t slow anyone down.

As the second half of the spring semester gears up for most students and teachers, there surely will be more snark posted and shared among both groups. If it helps let off steam, fine. But it would be wrong to allow such snark to distract from how massive the effort is by students and teachers to keep connected and to keep learning from one another.

In the book and movie, “Bang the Drum Slowly,” there’s this great line: “From here on in, I rag nobody.” No more making fun of those whose stories or struggles you might not truly understand for the sake of a laugh.

Perhaps adopting that sentiment is the right thing to do in such extraordinary times, not just for college students and their professors, but for all of us.

 

(c) 2020 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

This article first appeared on here, and was reposted with permission.

You can read another reflection by Professor Seglin on COVID-19 here.

 

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