Surviving COVID and Sally and this academic year

October 20, 2020 | Francine Glazer (WKU Writing Consortium), Claudia Stanny (ed.)

Surviving COVID and Sally and this academic year

We’ve been through a roller-coaster in the past few months. “The number of COVID-19 cases is climbing!” “We’ve flattened the curve!” “The semester will end before Thanksgiving.” “Restaurants and hair salons will reopen next week.” “Masks are optional.” “Masks are required.” “Students will be welcomed back to campus and will live in dorms, but will attend all classes remotely, from their dorm rooms.” “Campus will be closed due to damages incurred from Hurricane Sally.” “Monitor the path of Tropical Depression Delta.”

The only thing we know with any certainty is that the situation changes daily. In addition to adjustments required for safe instruction, we must now adjust the fall semester calendar, which was disrupted by the visit from Hurricane Sally. And we still have two and a half months left to 2020. COVID precautions are likely to persist through the spring term.

Now is the time to ask yourself: What are the most important things students need to take away from my class? How can I connect that material to my students’ lives, to what they are experiencing now? How can I make it evident to my students that I am concerned for their well-being as much as for their learning?

  1. Communicate. Connect with your students through text message or email announcement. Let them know you are available to respond to questions. Manage their expectations regarding your response time. “I will respond to your email within 24 hours…”
  2. Care. Acknowledge that these times are challenging. Ask students how they will manage their time. Remind them that tutoring and academic advising is available through the Advising and Enrichment Center, as is emotional support through Counseling and Wellness.
  3. Review your expectations. What do you think you can realistically accomplish during this time period? Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading and assignments? Do you need to add more structure and accountability to keep students engaged? Review your dates and deadlines: do any of them need to change?
  4. Be transparent. Tell students what you know and what you don’t know. “We will not have the class we anticipated, but I am still going to do my best to provide you with a high-quality learning experience. Here’s how …” 
  5. Be flexible. Keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

The teaching you do during this time can make a tremendous impact on your students, especially if you also model compassion, resilience, and grit.


This tip is based on “Preparing for a Strange Semester” submitted by Francine S. Glazer, Ph.D. Associate Provost for Educational Innovation & Director, Center for Teaching & Learning

New York Institute of Technology to the Western Kentucky University Teaching Issues Writing Consortium used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (, which permits non-commercial reuse, adaptation, and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly attributed to the author.

“Title of Distributed Tip,” modified or edited by Claudia J. Stanny is Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by Claudia J. Stanny.

Creative Commons language from UWK Teaching Issues Writing Consortium (November 28, 2016).

10/20/2020 ajc