“I keep wanting to call on you, but every time I try, you’re yawning,” Shereen Elgamal, lecturer in Arabic, told me in class the other day.
She’s right. If I’m not yawning, I’m taking a bite of my bagel, stretching, or rubbing my eyes to stay awake.
Since Elon University switched to online instruction, more than 150 students who live in California have had to adjust their schedules to accommodate the time change. My mornings start at 5:59 a.m. when my piercing alarm goes off. I shuffle downstairs, pop a bagel in the toaster, trudge back upstairs, open Zoom, and meet my professor and five other students for our 6:25 a.m. Arabic class.
These are trying times for everyone who is learning to adapt to remote learning. Professors have to shift lesson plans, learn new technology, and establish a new type of work-life balance.
Students and professors alike might be living with a healthcare worker or a sick family member which brings on a whole new set of challenges.
Most of my professors were sympathetic when they learned about my considerable time difference. Three of my five classes are synchronous.
In North Carolina they would start at 9:25 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 2:20 p.m. EST. In California, they start three hours earlier at 6:25 a.m., 7:30 a.m., and 11:20 a.m. PST.
My communications professor encouraged me to give the 7:30 a.m. start time a chance and if it wasn’t working, he would be willing to talk about alternatives. Shereen offered to teach the other student on the west coast and me later in the day on occasion if we wanted to sleep in. She did not define how often this accommodation would be available.
However, I have yet to take her up on her offer because there are benefits I have found through the process. I thought shifting my whole schedule forward three hours would be undoable, but in fact I have found it enjoyable.
It ensures I keep a schedule similar to what I would have at school. I’d like to think that I could do online learning on my own, but if I didn’t have to meet my professors online every day at a set time I would lose self-discipline.
I have talked to other students that are also having difficulty staying focused during this time. I need that structure to keep me motivated, as I know other students do as well. This way, I finish my work on time, ask questions “in person”, and find the material more engaging, despite the three hour time difference.
I get none of these benefits if I took the alternative.
Also, I don’t want to be a burden. If I took Shereen up on her offer to meet later in the day meaning she would have to teach the lesson twice. That is too much to ask. Plus, I thought I could use this time to learn to become a morning person.
Even though I am more than 2,700 miles from campus and am making sacrifices to learn the way I desire, my mentality has shifted from “me” to “we.” If starting class on time with all students present would lighten the workload for my professors and keep a sense of normalcy amongst my classmates, waking up a few hours earlier is the least I can do.
Students like myself must consider how our requests affect others. No student should expect professors to bend the rules just to make something more convenient for them. Even if the professor says he or she is willing, think about the sacrifices they would have to make.
Now is a time to be especially conscientious and courteous.
I realize there are exceptions. Asking international students with greater time differences to be nocturnal is unreasonable. So, while I have not utilized accommodations my professors have offered in an effort to be flexible and keep a routine, I am thankful that they are there.
For those of you in a different time zone, I encourage you to try waking up on time for class, even if that is a bit earlier than you're used to. Find a routine that works for you. Make a schedule and stick to it. Studying for one class at the same time every day keeps me focused and on task during uncertain times.