The Day BYU Closed: My COVID Story

I walked into my husband's office with tears streaming down my face.  He asked, "What's wrong?"

"I think I need to give my last-day-of-the-semester lecture tomorrow."

"Why would you do that in the middle of the semester?"

"I don't know.  It doesn't make sense.  I just feel like I should."

I had just been invited to attend an emergency faculty meeting to be held tomorrow, March 12, at 11:00 a.m. We were going to be instructed on how to use this product that BYU had licensed called Zoom. 

I had heard of Zoom.  I had a colleague who used it on snowy days.  I thought it was sort of like WebEx, but different, maybe?  I decided to go to the meeting.  My class was at 12:30 p.m., so it wasn't too big of a deal to go anyway.

The meeting was crazy.  The one giving the tutorial was talking like he was in a race.  He was showing us what our settings should look like, what camera angles was best, and throwing at us all the features Zoom had to offer.  He told us that BYU had different licenses available depending on our classroom size, but the default was unlimited minutes with 300 participants.  We should reach out if we needed a different license.  Need a different license? What for? 

Hands kept going up.  Older gentlemen who were clearly uncomfortable and wanted personalized instruction wanted to ask how to use this for their own classroom.  The presenter was stern.  "I don't have time to answer questions."  Professors would interrupt anyway and shout out their questions angrily.

The meeting finally ended, and I left to teach my class.

During class I suddenly started to act the same way as the man I had just listened to.  I was talking really quickly.  I frantically scribbled on the board all the information I could think of that would help them complete the team project and the final.  Questions were becoming an irritation.

I then passed out my "quiz" and gave my end-of-the-semester-go-out-into-the-world-and-do-good-things speech.  Usually it ends with students wiping tears from their eyes and giving me hugs.  But this time it ended with students staring back at me like I had just imitated a chimpanzee.  They mumbled their goodbyes and ran out the door.

"What did I just do?" I thought.  I instantly was filled with regret.

Fortunately I had a student who was also a friend because we went to church together.  I told him, "The students didn't seem too impressed with my quiz."

He said, "I think everyone is just confused as to why you were saying goodbye."

I went back to my office and had a thought to grab all of my students' papers and bring them home.  It would have been a huge stack.  I decided not to bother, but I did take my portable file cabinet home with me, something I never do.  I got in my car and left the parking lot around 3:00 p.m.

It takes me half an hour to get home from BYU.  To keep me busy, I like to make phone calls.  After chatting with my husband, I decided to call a friend of mine.  He answered the phone with, "So, what are you going to do now?"

"Now?" I asked.  I didn't understand what he meant.

"You know, now that BYU is cancelled."

I almost drove off the road.  "What?"

"They just announced that BYU is shut down."

I had just seen my students an hour ago and the campus is closed?  I was really wishing I had grabbed those student papers.

It was true.  I got home to discover that BYU had cancelled classes for the remainder of the semester.  After a three-day break, instruction would resume remotely... on Zoom.

Since that time several students have reached out to thank me for my final words.  One student said that I was the last lecture he would ever hear because he's graduating.  He said it was the perfect way to end his college career.

My life is now filled with Zoom meetings, tutorials, and TONS of emails.  It's kind of mind blowing to think that just 5 weeks ago, I didn't even know how Zoom worked and now I use it almost daily.  Words like asynchronous, ubiquitous, and reflexive are a part of my normal vocabulary now.  I'm learning how to teach a camera lens instead of a person.    I have organized my office's bookshelves because now people can see them.  

I think back to that frantic faculty meeting filled with anxious professors.  I'm so grateful I went.  I'm so grateful they took the time to show us all the features.  But most of all I'm grateful, he showed us that we have the "Touch up my appearance" option.

On to my next Zoom meeting!