Date: June 10, 2021
Teaching is hard work. Under normal circumstances, a seasoned teacher will spend a significant amount of time designing, planning, and preparing lectures for a course. This spring, the Virginia Theological Seminary faculty completed an entire year of online teaching. We navigated digital platforms and online office hours. We learned about lighting, microphones, and ideal backgrounds. Classes were revised and reimagined so they would work on a virtual platform.
Once course materials were loaded onto Brightspace, the faculty then faced the challenge of engaging and evaluating students who were overwhelmed, dealing with the disappointments and dislocation of the ongoing pandemic, supporting family members and trying to learn with children at home who were in virtual school as well. Students and teachers struggled to stay engaged for long hours on Zoom. We heard the cry, “You’re muted,” and said, “Unmute yourself,” more times than we care to remember.
The experience of teaching online made us mindful of some things. Some of us prayed like never before over our students and classes. And we remembered in very powerful ways the importance of a pastoral presence, and the necessity of self-care. We gained a renewed sense of gratitude for residential teaching and learning.
Teaching is hard work and, despite all of the challenges we faced as a community this past year, we have newly acquired skills and learnings that will inform our future work. It is a joy to be a part of an institution that values teaching. The VTS faculty have shown themselves strong in this pandemic and are looking forward to teaching in the fall.
The Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, Ph.D.
Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Old Testament