So here I am with nervous energy, standing before 16 eyeballs. Today marks the first day of being in the lab with my students. I’ve met these eager individuals once before but somehow being on campus feels surreal. The last time I was on campus with students was March and so much has changed in this world since then. The new rules are easy to follow, but it’s hard to remember them all. As I stand there before the students, searching for the right things to say, I notice all those eyeballs looking to me for guidance and reassurance and yet at that moment my thoughts wandered to “how will I remember all their names if I can’t see their faces”.
The last 5 months has had us building activities, learning Bongo, and prepping lesson plans but what I wasn’t prepared for was how the instructor and student relationship might be challenged. The masks we don for protection may be a barrier for more than we anticipated. How will I see the quiver of the lip after I give tough feedback? Will I know my student is frowning with anxiety before a procedure? Will those eyes give me enough details that I’ll know to ask more questions? I fear that there is potential for this mask to become a greater entity than its intended purpose and take on a life of its own creating a relationship barrier that none of us could have expected.
I was prepared and understood that things would be different this term but as I reflect on my own goals of building meaningful student instructor relationships, I pause. For me, those meaningful relationships might include a smile and nod across a room for a job well done, it’s a soft glance when a student is struggling, and it’s a neutral expression when delivering tough news. Will I be the educator I strive to be and will my mask still allow me to build those safe places that students feel they can let their guard down. Now more than ever I’ll need to use my words, words that may not always come easily. I’ll need to verbally communicate my feelings but will that have the same impact.
These musings have left me pondering many things and as I ask myself these questions I realize there is still an opportunity to fulfill my goals of building meaningful relationships. In fact, this goal may be more important than ever. The students of today, although brave and resilient, will need those soft glances more than ever before. Those 16 eyeballs will continue to look to me for direction and despite a pandemic I will give them the best of me that I can, and in the meantime…blink twice if you are feeling overwhelmed.
Trudi MN, RN, CCNE
What are your goals for the new school year?