CTLs in the Time of COVID


I have to take myself back to 9/11 to find a match for a sustained national crisis even remotely similar to what the U.S. has experienced since the onset of COVID-19. One of my more dominant memories of that earlier catastrophe involves a writing course I taught that day, a class that started just after the second tower had fallen. For all we knew, we were at war; and assessing for myself the diversity of that particular room full of students, I began to solicit comments from as many class members as possible, trying to help students emerge as speaking subjects before any wartime narrative might vilify a group with which they aligned. In the midst of these awkward discussions (no one really knew what to say), one student shouted an expletive and slammed a paper folder onto his desk. “My paper,” he said, with a tone of angry disappointment, “is about friendship.” As I came to understand it, his distaste for his own project stemmed from a reckoning with relevance, a perspective forced from the urgency of world events. A hastily written paper on friendship, one of those papers a student hoped to be finished rather than actually be good, had no place on a world stage. While I am aware of no center for teaching and learning (CTL) worker who wishes their programming to be anything less than good, the COVID pandemic has produced for us all a similar reckoning with relevance.