The 21st century COVID-19 pandemic taught people many lessons about life and death from a very close proximity, though not necessarily physically close in many cases. COVID-19 often results in a lonely death. There are so many tragic stories of dying, death and people’s behavior including relatives, which may sound irrational. As of this month, the United States itself recorded over 600,000 deaths. And death and tragic stories are everywhere around the world.
Noble Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore touched many issues in his writing, including death. He said, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”
Therefore, albeit difficult, we must never give up our own light due to the end of a life, rather look at tomorrow to start our every day.
In the field of education, it was Zoom year or online class education in the U.S.
As Peter Drucker said, “learning is a lifelong process,” and for educators, this is 100 percent true.
In my teaching career of over two decades, I have never taught a course online. I always thought virtual learning may not be an effective delivery method of knowledge for the students.
I remember in the spring semester 2020, I had only one in-person organic chemistry class in Shattuck Hall of MUW, maintaining social distance and wearing masks. And for me, that was the end of teaching in-person classes for the whole year of 2020.
Truly speaking, I felt a little bit shaky. I had never given an online class before, and I had to change myself to become an effective online educator.
Within a couple of days, using help from my colleagues and university staff, I learned how to deliver my first synchronous online class. Slowly, I taught myself how to make questions with organic molecular structures, even how to create exams and quizzes in order to make them more accommodating for students, too. In my in-person classes, I regularly used the classroom black board to teach. Similarly Zoom’s “white board” has given me that option. In addition, the molecular model set helped me to project three-dimensional structure to the students.
Gradually, I started to enjoy teaching online synchronous classes. I am proud to say that I didn’t miss any classes during both 2020 Spring and Fall semesters. I gladly observed my confidence in delivering virtual lessons growing everyday — enough for me to pursue and accept an exciting offer to virtually teach Organic Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. A total of 65 students from Pennsylvania Governor’s School of Science (PGSS) signed up for my organic chemistry class for five weeks last summer. Both the Director of PGSS and my students were so impressed, that the director offered me the same opportunity this year — despite not applying myself!
Though quizzes and tests are automatically graded, I found I spent more time and hard work for online classes compared to in-person classes. From the student’s side there were some connectivity problems, though some students are enthusiastic enough to connect while driving.
One thing’s for sure: I devoted my whole time to teaching because there is nothing else to do except browsing pandemic-related news around the world. Truly speaking, I didn’t go out of my home boundary for almost a year except for vaccination. I wrote a dozen columns to The Dispatch. Now, I’m looking forward to seeing a better and pandemic-free situation in the near future.
Jiben Roy, a native of Bangladesh, teaches chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences at Mississippi University for Women. His email address is [email protected]