Navigating teaching in these COVID-19 challenging times is difficult.
Many universities, colleges and schools across the country have suspended in-person courses as public health officials try to flatten the curve of the outbreak and prevent the virus from spreading.
It is equally difficult being a university student in these unprecedented times. Worse yet, a university student about to graduate.
Luke Henderson is one such student.
The New Glasgow resident is about to graduate from Acadia University in Wolfville with a bachelor’s degree in music with a concentration in music education. In the fall, he will be returning to the same university since he’s been accepted into the two-year bachelor of education program, with a view to teaching music.
His sister, Clare Henderson, is just finishing her first year at the University of Prince Edward Island where she is studying life sciences with an interest in veterinary school.
Following his spring break, Luke would be have been returning to school for just three more weeks of classes.
“It caught us at an awkward time right near the end of the semester, but it was close enough so that what a lot of places are doing — including Acadia for me and UPEI for Clare — is convert the last couple of weeks of class into online learning for the most part,” he said.
“We were on the home stretch for sure.”
Now at home, he is completing work on a number of projects that will end up being submitted online.
“I had one class that was done through a video link through Microsoft Team where we all logged in and our professor was there talking about a few things and had a chance for questions from different people.
“But then in other cases for certain projects that aren’t feasible online, they’ve been cancelled and marks have been shifted around.”
And that last little bit of the semester is always when there’s a rush for final papers, getting ready for exams later in April and completing a lot of larger projects.
Luke said there would have been some students who would have been counting on those last few grades to boost their marks. “They would be concerned. This is certainly not ideal and it’s certainly not a perfect solution. It is an unprecedented time so there’s certainly room for forgiveness and for some shifting around.”
The most disappointing aspect for the young man is the loss of all that graduation would bring.
“The university has assured us that even though there’s no convocation ceremony, that graduation will not be impacted, the ability to get our certificates will not be impacted, none of that will be an issue.”
The college senior is disappointed that he won’t get to walk across the stage in front of his peers and family. “It was something myself and a lot of my friends were looking forward to, in part for the graduating ceremony — that culminating point — but also just a chance for all of our classes to get back together just for one last weekend.”
He said the last few days before his university closed were almost frantic as he and his friends were trying to say their good-byes to each other “because for some of them they won’t be coming back and we won’t be seeing them — and it all happened within the span of a just a couple of days. So it’s a bittersweet end to the year.”
Last summer, Luke worked as a summer student for the Town of New Glasgow on the Festival of the Tartans. “I am applying again because who knows where we’ll be in a couple of months? There is absolutely a lot of uncertainty.”
These days, Luke is sitting at one end of the dining room table in the family home and his sister Clare is at the other end, set up in their work stations completing their university year with online training.
“It’s working out pretty well,” he laughed. “We specifically made a point of setting up the dining room to work together as a school space. When we need a break from that we can go other places and do other things.”
While study hall takes on new meaning and new dimensions for the local siblings, one thing remains unchanged for Clare who plays bagpipes: The College of Piping in Summerside is closed and there are no band practices, but for the last number of years she has taken solo lessons through Skype. That, at least, is a bit of normalcy for her.
Luke Henderson, who will graduate from Acadia University this spring, works on completing school projects from the unusual setting of his dining room table. (Submitted photo)