I’m kind of in shock at the beginning of the semester.
I’m quite fortunate that things continue to go well for me and I’m happy to return to the jobs that I love so much. I’m excited, euphoric even. But, it quickly became apparent on this, the first day of classes, that MOST students are not feeling the same way. Rather, they are plagued by uncertainty and anxiety. Intimidated, overwhelmed, and downright scared, students have been emailing and messaging with panicked questions, desperately seeking reassurance and answers during this time of what I would categorize as educational trauma. For many of these students, their first day of college is a rather terrifying one. It’s no one’s fault but I have never seen anything like this.
I believe, now more than ever, that learning as an affective, enjoyable experience is not just an ideal, not a mere luxury, but an essential element of the learning process. Our intellectual needs are high on the pyramid—health, security, and stability need to be established first. But learning needs to happen in a pleasant, positive environment. It needs to be as delightful as it has always been for me.
So, I decided to make this video for my students for several reasons. I’m teaching entirely remotely this semester, like many of my colleagues, in an effort to make our campuses as socially distanced as possible. I felt it was important that these incoming students not only get at least a little personal interaction so that the institution might feel a little humanized, but I wanted them to get a sense of my personality as well. My expectations are high, but I’m here to help. I love what I do—I’m passionate about writing and dance and performance and honors education and I want to share the excitingly transformative power of a profound and affective educational experience. My teaching makes me come alive and for me there is no more rewarding, soul-nourishing, or inspiringly transformative experience. I at least want my students to walk away with some sense of the enormous but simple joy of learning to express themselves this semester.
Learning should be thrilling and not terrifying.
Here’s my message to them: “The Show Must Go On.” (Both the email I sent and the video itself).
It’s become clear to me today that many of you are experiencing uncertainty, anxiety, and perhaps outright fear. Some of you seem intimidated, overwhelmed, and full of doubt. This is entirely understandable.
I’ve never seen anything like it—usually the first day of the semester is filled with some nervousness, of course, but is usually characterized by excitement and optimism. Not this year, but that’s ok! We can work with that!
I see many of you trying so hard! I’m so impressed already. So I wanted to create this video for you. I wanted you to get a sense of my personality so you see that I am a real human being who loves what I do and loves working with my students. I want to see you all do well. That’s my whole goal! That’s what makes me love my job as much as I do.
I LOVE writing and academic work and dance and performance and all the other things that I do. I believe that learning should be more than pleasant—it should be delightful, thrilling, inspiring, and transformative.
I want you to look forward to logging into our course and doing your assignments. I want you to have a good time in our discussion board conversations. I want you to feel, when you read my comments on your work, that you have someone who cares, who is careful, and who is working to help you improve, getting better every time. Your academic work can be a positive and necessary escape from everything else in life.
I hope my excitement, my enthusiasm, my love for what I do comes through in this video. And I hope you get a sense of the tremendous optimism that I see for this semester!
We’re all in this together—let’s make it a great experience. “The Show Must Go On” and we may as well make it mind-blowingly stellar! [Insert mind-blown emoji]
Here’s to a great experience,
Transcript of the Video
Hi everyone! I’m Jesse Katen, a professor in the English Department and the Honors Program at SUNY Broome.
I’m coming to you from my dance studio that I own because I’m also a dance teacher and competition judge.
I’m making this video for my SUNY Broome students in the fall of 2020 because today is our first day of class and it’s already become clear that many of you are feeling unsettled or intimidated or are experiencing doubt and anxiety at this point, which is completely understandable.
I want to tell you that the first week of college or of any semester is always intimidating and overwhelming even under the best of circumstances, and clearly as you know because of COVID, these are NOT the best of circumstances.
But I’m telling you: we’ll be OK, you’ll be OK, we will all get through this together.
We have a saying in the dance world, “The Show Must Go On.”
That means finding the strength and the inspiration to keep moving forward despite fear, despite complication, and despite adversity.
“The Show Must Go On.” I hope that reminds you to stay focused not on the bad things or on your fears but on your goals, your hopes, your dreams, and the things that have always inspired you and focus on those through these difficult — but TEMPORARY, yes temporary–circumstances.
“The Show Must Go On.” Keep moving forward .
Keep this in mind: you don’t have to get through a whole semester of work the first day. Take this semester one day at a time.
I always teach my classes in the early morning so in moving online, at least you’re all getting to sleep later!
But let me share with you how this works:
The first week of any semester is always surreal and overwhelming and you can’t believe this is your new reality, but then things settle into place.
It takes two weeks to feel real, real enough to be manageable.
It takes three weeks to become a routine and then you’ll feel comfortable and relaxed enough to be functioning at your best. So give it at least that long and you’ll feel normal again.
College isn’t easy–it’s difficult–but so is anything else worth doing. It’s hard, but you can do it.
Don’t give up, Don’t disappear, just keep moving forward. Keep moving forward one class, one assignment, one day, one week, at a time. But keep moving forward.
We can do this and we will! We’ll have a great semester in my classes–we always do. Shoot me an email with questions or if you need any help. Don’t hesitate to reach out. I want to see you all do well! Seeing my students succeed is what inspires me and keeps me going through difficulty, so I’m happy to help you.
The Show Must Go on! So, Break a leg this semester!