Written by Montez Louria
Zoom classes are the Dracula of education. My soul, energy, and passion are all sucked out of me while sitting and staring at my glowing tablet screen. I have four classes and instead of getting lost or running from building to building within a minute of class starting. I am frantically drowning in Zoom links. Is it zoom.us/9001239876 or is it code: 601 326 7566? At this point, all the links and numbers are the same.
I see the tiny squares of equally unenthused classmates, trying to find the right comfort in a chair. Trying to not lay back against their bed. Trying to relate good lighting. Home offices constructed out of kitchen islands and Zodiac tapestry. Then there is me with sticky notes against the wall right above my head. Feet buried in the carpet. Cheap Walmart chair with wheels that would never attach. A furry pillow turned into a butt pillow that is now deflated. Here, I am in a virtual classroom, hoping that my wifi doesn’t take a break. Hoping that today is not the day my tablet gives up. Hoping this isn’t time for a power outage or other experimentations from my apartment complex.
Our professor asked us to keep the camera on because “keeping the camera on facilitates the learning environment.” We start class at 7pm EST. We start the class with a personal yet unfunny anecdote from everyone’s favorite quirky White male professor. Half of the class laughs at the story about a student being potentially date raped at a party. “Scratch that,” he says, “I didn’t mean that. I’m not victim blaming but why are you going to a party, DURING COVID?” I look into the camera. Half of the students are smiling, the other half uncomfortably pretending this is okay. We follow up with a sci-fi reference while realizing forty minutes of class has been wasted. The class goes until 9:50. Yet somehow we will be waiting here until 10pm or 10:05pm. Oh joy.
The blank stares, awkward silences, the one person who talks too much, people should talk more… are these archetypes imitating life, or has life begun to imitate the archetypes? Traditional student tropes plaguing my digital life. I sit, trying desperately to hold my attention to the screen– it’s rather difficult to discuss the threshold concepts when your bed is calling. She says she misses me, andthe television is waiting for me to catch up on Doom Patrol. My immaculate “Wild Art Heart” anxiety reducing coloring book is waiting for me. I’m fidgeting. I have things I want to say. I say nothing. My overcompensating classmate speaks again, and every time they speak, it’s a practice for a badly written dissertation. They take up so much space in conversation.
I miss the stale walls of a lecture hall. I miss the swivel chairs, the tables with plugs already in them. I miss the brick of campus. Walking past busts or statues I secretly hate or wonder why they exist. The most painful thing about Zoom classes is that I still pay for full tuition for half the experience and half the access. I started my MFA program via zoom and I’ll probably graduate via Zoom. Like many others, at one point in time, my workplace and classroom are also my bedroom. My place where I could decompress, abandon my fears, and reset became a dumpster of emotion and stress. I cannot leave my stress at work. I cannot deposit my academic frustrations in a building named after a donor. I worry about my attire. Am I being too casual? I attend class in a tank top or pajamas that look like a hoodie. I lean against my back wall. I lean against the side wall. I slump on my home desk. The candles in my room flickering distract me. There is something about being able to walk or drive to a campus, sit in a room, speak passionately about the intersection of identity and pedagogy, and then go home. Something about being able to catch a classmate after the session. Have a chat. A quick late night dinner/snack. But all of this: gone. I end class in my bedroom, I go to my dark and lonely kitchen. Refill my water bottle and complete my night routine.
We will all have the common ground whether we are undergrad, grad, or post grads. We will all remember the makeshift virtual accommodations, virtual club meeting, ceremonies, mixers, and orientations. We will remember graduation as a name on a screen with a “sorry, thank you box,” full of school merchandise that no one wanted to buy. We will have the loans from attending class in our isolated rooms and favorite slippers. What wild card crazy or exciting memories will we have from zooming our way through higher ed? What hazy yet enjoyable memories will we have of conversations in dining halls or dimly lit pizza shops? Yes, being able to seek higher education is a privilege. However being in the same space all the time because of a pandemic changes your outlook on college. I will speak for myself when I say I am past the point of organization. Past the point of being optimistic about zoom fatigue. So welcome us all, into the alumni association of Zoom University. The reunion will be amazing. Shared misery makes for the best cocktail hour.