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Mark James Miller: Staying positive through the pandemic
Looking Forward

Mark James Miller: Staying positive through the pandemic

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Mark James Miller

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own unique challenges to every facet of society. Everyone has been seriously impacted by the virus, and students in higher education are no exception.

Nationwide, students are delaying their education until the pandemic is over and colleges return to the traditional classroom approach instead of the online model being used in its place. Some are simply uncomfortable with online learning, and others are fearful that the education they receive remotely is not of the same quality as what they get in the classroom with the instructor present.

Allan Hancock College students have many of the same concerns. But a recent survey indicates their overall attitude is positive and optimistic. They are confident they will get through this, and life will return to normal, sooner, they hope, rather than later.

Many students report the stay-at-home order has enabled them to spend more quality time with their families.

“At home I am enjoying all the time I get to spend with my kids,” one wrote. “I love that we can be at home more and have more family time.”

“This experience has made me grateful to the people in my life, for my health and just the small normal things we take for granted,” said another. “We do our best to stay positive and safe.”

Of course, the picture isn’t all rosy. Over and over students report they prefer the traditional classroom over online learning, and fear they are not learning as much. Others talk about how their lives have been disrupted by the stay-at-home orders:

“The virus has turned my life upside down … I am having a difficult time balancing school and work.”

“I feel like I’m going crazy knowing I can’t go shopping or take my daughters to the park because of the quarantine,” writes one.

“I had plans of visiting my parents, my grandmother and a handful of friends,” said another, frustrated because those plans now must be scrapped.

Transitioning from the traditional classroom to the remote one is a challenge for many.

“I am learning less,” said a student used to getting all As.

“Online school is frustrating for me. I don’t get it sometimes,” said another.

Most are striving to make the best of a bad situation and seeing opportunities to grow. One student reported being depressed at first, then she decided to explore new vistas.

“I pass the time doing yoga, painting and learning a new musical instrument,” she said.

“It has made me realize that what helps us progress in life is how well we adapt to change,” reported another. “Life before the pandemic seems like ages ago and I realize I took all the little things for granted.”

The challenge the pandemic presents has made some students more determined than ever to complete their education.

“COVID-19 has made me want to strive even harder for my education. I will not finish until I am a registered nurse and able to get out there and help others,” said a student.

The historical significance of what we are living through is not lost on the students.

“We have become a part of a new virtual reality,” said one. “Now it is left for us to adjust and come back stronger and better.”

“When I get older I can tell my kids that I lived through a pandemic,” states another.

“I am hopeful we will soon go back to our normal routines with a greater appreciation for the simple things,” a student wrote, expressing a sentiment many millions of people share with her.

Mark James Miller is an associate English instructor at Allan Hancock College and president of the Part-Time Faculty Association. He can be reached at


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