My Last Class: Sitting with Sadness

The pandemic hit me in the face today.

For the last 23 years I have been an adjunct lecturer at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.  I taught classes almost every semester of those 23 years, which means I had about 1,200 students.  Teaching is my passion and teaching at U of M, the number one school of social work in the country, has been one of the true highlights of my career. About five months ago, before the pandemic, I decided the time had come to retire from teaching.  I have known since then that my spring/summer class would be my last.  But I didn’t know that this past semester, and half of the previous one, would be entirely online.

I love teaching because of the relationships with the students.  There is magic in the classroom, as any professor will tell you.  I taught graduate students, most of whom had a deep desire to do social work and were open to learning and growing from their graduate experience.  I established long term relationships with many who have kept in touch with me through the years.  I believe it takes a village to be a helper and I like being a part of people’s villages.

This semester has been different.  This was the first time I taught a 10-week 4-hour class without meeting any of my students in person.  How do you teach someone how to create successful helping relationships without having a relationship with them?  I tried so hard, but today, during my last class, my eyes welled with tears as I was saying goodbye without ever getting to say hello the way I would have liked.

I hate this pandemic.  There is no silver lining in this situation for me.  Yes, I learned new skills to teach a fully online class, but they don’t replace what was lost.  I can’t believe that I won’t ever be in the classroom again.  I understand how the high school and college seniors feel.  We were robbed.  I know I will have other positive social work relationships in my life, but that doesn’t console me.  These are life changing losses.

If people in your life have experienced irreplaceable losses like these, please honor their sadness and grief.  Don’t gloss it over and don’t try to fix it.   Let us have our feelings and provide a place for them to be heard.  We will get over it, but we also may have a hole in our hearts for what didn’t happen.


2 Responses

  1. Joni Fischer

    I’m so sorry. Sending love ❤️.

  2. DM Hoffman

    Congratulations on the blessed cheer and all uyou have helped, taught and inspired. Love the new pursuit.