March 20, 2020
Congratulations on completing your first week back from Spring Break. I am the Director of the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. My job is to oversee the Family Studies & Human Development, Retailing & Consumer Sciences, and Personal & Family Financial Planning degrees. I know you’re being flooded with emails right now, but I wanted you to know that your well-being is my most important concern.
I am sure that I am not alone in saying that this was NOT the week I expected when Spring Break started. I do know what it’s like to leave for a long weekend and come back only to find the world changed. Fifteen years ago, when I was living in New Orleans, I evacuated for a hurricane… Hurricane Katrina. I was a young faculty member at the University of New Orleans. I packed up my data and 3 days of clothes and evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. I thought I’d only be gone for a long weekend, but ended up being gone for 4 months. It would be a year before I was back in my office.
I learned some really important lessons from Hurricane Katrina. The first lesson is that there is no such thing as too much contact. I will send weekly emails to all of our Norton School students through the end of the semester. You also can check our website for regular updates. We are adding informational update pages to the main website. If there are urgent messages to communicate, I will email you and update the website. As long as we remain in an online teaching mode, you will receive updates every Friday.
The second lesson I learned is to prioritize what matters most.
- Take care of your mental health. Take care of yourself and your mental health. This is a very uncertain and scary time. Call a friend (rather than text), hug your parents, facetime or zoom with loved ones. Social distance does not mean social isolation. Find ways to connect with others. Take mental health breaks during the day. Go for a walk outside, bake, or read a book. Please be kind to yourself right now.
- You are not alone. We are all feeling frightened and unsettled by the coronavirus. And we are all figuring this out as we go. It’s ok to talk about your concerns and worries with your family, your friends, and your instructors. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to us (or directly to me). We care about you a lot and we can figure out ways to help.
- It’s good to be in school. Classes are familiar and over the next few days a new routine will emerge. This routine will be different than the routine you’re used to. That’s ok. Taking classes online is really different from going to class and it can feel really isolating. Technology doesn’t always work. Your instructors may do a lousy job videoing their lectures. They may not upload things right. Instructions may be confusing. We’re all going to get this wrong – A LOT! But, that’s ok! We will figure this out together. Give your instructors honest feedback. They want to know how to help you.
- Don’t forget to laugh. Did you know that your instructors are getting their classes online with their own children running around in the background? I’ve been in zoom meetings with the Dean with my kids are fighting in the background and my dog begging to be scratched. Thank goodness for mute! I’ve also had zoom calls with your instructors only to see their children hiding under the table. As bizarre as it is right now, it’s also real life and we’re all going to get to know each other in a much more real and authentic way. Celebrate this.
- Your best is good enough! Do your best. Many of you are taking 5 to 6 classes online right now and you’ve never had a single online class before this week. We get it. Managing new schedules, keeping on top of everything is hard. Have any of you experienced the “fuzzy brain”? This is the experience of simply not being able to think clearly. This “fuzzy brain” occurs from being in such a different environment than what your typical environment. You are taking classes in a new mode (on line) and in a new place. You will be slower and it will be awkward. And this is OK. Do your best!
- Your instructors understand. Our first priority is for you to learn the material and finish the semester successfully. We will work with you to make sure you master the material. This matters more to us than meeting deadlines. As flexible as we are going to be, we need one thing from you. We need you to talk to us and communicate with us . . . more than you’ve ever done before. Think of these next 2 months as a partnership with your instructors. Work collaboratively with your instructors. Let them know if you’re struggling and give them honest feedback on how their teaching methods are working. These are new times and we need to work together.
- Help is on the way. Many of you are struggling financially, struggling to get internet access, or have unique stressors. Please communicate with us. All major cell phone service providers are providing unlimited data right now. But, if you’re working on a cell phone, this is really hard. Let us know and we can find alternative ways for you to do school work. Those of you in remote areas of Arizona, connect with Cooperative Extension. They can make internet access available to you. We are working on ways to help each of you, but we need to know what those needs are. Contact your academic advisors, your instructors, or me. We will figure out how to help you. In the words of High School Musical (my kids LOVE this movie), we’re all in this together.
Last but not least, be kind to yourself! It’s Friday and please make some time to disconnect this weekend. Spend some time outside enjoying the beauty of nature!