Hayden Goldberg, Freshman at the University of Washington and the campus shut down in a pandemic.

My school was the first in the country to cancel classes due to the novel coronavirus, and it happened right before finals week in early March. As a student with ADHD and anxiety, this was a difficult adjustment that required a lot of flexibility. This is the story about how I found out about the switch, how the winter quarter ended, and how the spring quarter began. Campus shut down in a pandemic.

overwhelmed student during remote learninigDay 0

Today it was announced that classes would be moving online for next week – the final week of the quarter – and for finals.

It was Friday of Week 9 of a 10-week quarter and I was checking my email at the bus stop when I noticed some emails from my POL S 202 TA. After skimming them, I got to the most recent: she had canceled our quiz section for the day due to dwindling attendance. Another email came through: my other class that day would be online.

Since there was no point in going to campus, I went back home and read the emails in full. The university president announced that Week 10 classes and finals would also be conducted online.

I read this email with satisfaction. The University of Washington, where I am a student, would be the first college in the nation to go online. Most of the student body had been pushing for this to happen for the past week or so.

Despite this announcement, or rather, in spite of it, my anxiety started getting the best of me. I was anxious about how grades were going to turn out – more on that in a minute – and what classes would look like.

By the end of the day, I knew most of the answers. Two classes canceled previously scheduled presentations and class entirely. POL S 202 would post online lectures.

My fourth class, ECON 200, was another story.

Day 1

Today we learned about what would be happening for ECON 200 via email: the department canceled our final. Panic set in, I needed the final – and its 40% weight – to get my grade up.

This spiked my anxiety. How would the instructor reallocate our grades? I expected her to more heavily weigh the second problem set, as that would most accurately assess our understanding of the second half of the course content, but she did not. Thank goodness I invested time throughout the quarter getting to know this professor. During office hours we discussed options and agreed on a solution that brought my grade up.

The POL S 202 final went as expected. It was similar to the other exams we had had in the course. The only difference between them was 24-hour asynchronous time allotment vs two hours in class.

Day 1.5

Before finals were over, Governor Inslee of Washington state made an announcement: until April 24, all K-12 and institutions of higher education would conduct coursework online. This meant that he had forced UW’s hand: we would be remote at least for the first part of Spring Quarter.

That night we learned that UW would be going online for the entirety of Spring Quarter. I was not surprised.

Day 2

Spring Quarter classes start tomorrow, and I am optimistic about them.

I tend to like the idea of online learning but do not like it in practice. For example, I love the idea of pausing and rewinding a math lecture, but on the flip side, I lack the ability to ask questions and get answers now. I have spent spring break trying to change this mindset.

I am also ready for school to start; the past three weeks have been weird.

I spent most of Week 10 in limbo, waiting for the remaining content, sort of studying, but not really. I was unable to transition into “spring break mode” even though I had just about everything done.

In addition, limbo means I have no control over the situation, something I have struggled to handle for years. This is also why I was so anxious as announcements rolled in. I did not know what the outcome would look like, and my lack of control (manifesting as not knowing what would happen next) has spun me into multiple tizzies recently.

I need to remember that no one is in control and everyone is dealing with this.

Case in point: my STAT 311 professor is behind, only just sending out his syllabus, which looked like a rough draft. The ECON 201 information got sent out late – Saturday – and my stress is increasing as it is the first class, Monday at 8:30 am. I need to trust that everything will work itself out.

Day 3

Today is the first day of class, and it went as well as I could have hoped. Some Zoom polls did not work, but besides that, the technology worked perfectly. One downside to the Zoom chat feature is that everyone can see it, as the two students in my 350-person lecture who recognized each other learned, after asking for each other’s Snapchats and getting called out by the instructor.

The grading for this class is over-indexed towards watching the pre-recorded lectures with weekly quizzes that are worth 76% of our grade!

Smaller assignments are a theme throughout my other classes. For example, in ECON 201 we will have low stakes, weekly quizzes, in addition to four exams.

When I heard about this grading this morning, I freaked out: four midterms and weekly quizzes, that’s crazy. But upon further reflection, there is a difference between “quiz,” “exam,” and “midterm” and each invokes different connotations (and emotions). In line with new goals of more, lower-stakes grading opportunities, quizzes cover only a week of content. Frequent exams really mean that they are only testing on two and a half weeks of content. These are not midterms. Keeping this difference in mind is crucial.

This mental shift from “midterm” to “exam” is important for thinking realistically. In order for this to be a successful quarter, everyone needs to change their expectations and be flexible. This is ultra-critical for me. I know that if I can maintain flexibility (not my strength), I can have a successful quarter.

Hayden Goldberg is a freshman at the University of Washington with ADHD, anxiety, and executive functioning challenges. He has worked to create a system to overcome these challenges and improve essential skills such as time management, breaking apart assignments, and goal setting. Using this system, Hayden was able to successfully complete an intensive college prep program at the University of Washington and enter the University at age 15. His book, Freshman 101: The Guidebook to Planning, Prioritization, and Time Management, available on Amazon, provides step by step guidance on how to implement, customize, and use this system for yourself. In his free time, Hayden enjoys writing, skiing, hiking, playing board games, and playing with his dog. You can reach him at [email protected] or at linkedin.com/in/hayden-goldberg.

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