Monday, September 7, 2020
Teaching Through the Pandemic - Part VI: Labor Day
I have written here in the past about laboring on Labor Day. Most recently. I wrote about the relationship between work and mindfulness in this space last year. But it seems I also have picked up this theme here (in 2018) and here (at the end of my Labor Day post in 2017). Being the routine "Monday blogger" for the BLPB does give me the opportunity to focus on our Monday holidays!
This year, however, Labor Day--like so many other days in 2020--is markedly different in one aspect: I am required to teach today. When I logged in to the campus app on my phone this morning to do my routine daily health screening, I was greeted by this (in clicking through from the main event schedule page):
This is the first day in my 20 years of teaching, and maybe in my 35 years of post-law school work, that I have been required to work on Labor Day. My daughter, a Starbucks night shift manager, is required to work every year on Labor Day. But this is new to me . . . .
Of course, the ongoing pandemic is the reason for this change. By compacting the semester, we are endeavoring to keep folks who are attending class in person here on campus in a more constrained environment until the holidays (at which time we will release everyone to their families and friends until the new semester begins in January). Our campus website offers the following by way of a top-level explanation of the adjustments to the ordinary, customary academic calendar:
Thank you, COVID-19, for yet one more "first" in this year of many unprecedented things (including the 2019 novel coronavirus itself).
I have tried to make the best of teaching on the holiday, especially given the great weather we are having here in East Tennessee right now. I taught both of my classes today in the outfit I would have worn if I had been at home (as shown above at the top of the post and below, in both cases in my Corporate Finance class this morning--photo credits to Kaleb Byars and Landon Foody and mask design and sewing credit to my sister, Susan) and encouraged my in-person Business Associations students (almost half of my hybrid class) to come to school in the clothes they would typically wear to a Labor Day BBQ. I also brought in a special treat for my Corporate Finance students (what could be better at 8:30 am than equity instruments and donuts?) and sent my online Business Associations students into breakout rooms to connect over one of our assigned cases with a smaller group of their classmates while the in-person students wrestled with a case of their own. There was sparse but constructive attendance at Zoom office hours after class. In the end, it all has worked out fine. Not a bad day.
Wishing a happy Labor Day 2020 to all. Whether you are working today (at home or at a workplace outside the home) or taking the day off, stay safe and well. Personally, I look forward to Labor Day hamburgers tonight!
I should have said, "can control."
Posted by: Walter Effross | Sep 7, 2020 5:49:04 PM
Indeed, Walter. Having served as campus Faculty Senate President ten years ago, I know that well. The web of rules included in the campus Faculty Handbook and the university's employment policies is really something!
And must note that I smiled when I read: "principles (not principals)," having recently completed the part of my Business Associations course on sole proprietorships (which, of course, leans heavily on agency law). I tell the students they look smarter if they spell "principal" right in the context of agency law--especially in taking the bar exam. And I repeat the advice that I was given as a kid to get that spelling right: "The principal is your pal." Of course, we were referring to the school administrator kind of principal back then. But no matter . . . .
Thanks for making me smile on my working holiday.
Posted by: joanheminway | Sep 7, 2020 5:55:37 PM
Coming from a “non-traditional” law school, I did and continue to have only the greatest appreciation and affection for my “instructors” (not referred to as professors). These people – sitting judges and practicing attorneys, compensated at rates equivalent to one billable hour (continuing, still), gave up their evenings and weekends away from their families and personal endeavors to provide me with the opportunity to work full-time but to train for a career in the law. As I have been afforded the privilege of teaching, it is my hope that I am part of my instructor’s positive legacy.
I know, first-hand, how many of your former students (and colleagues) I meet every week who speak of you only in the most glowing terms. It is my great hope that they also realize the “often” personal sacrifices you make to be their teacher in addition to being a mentor.
I certainly appreciate having developed a friendship with you. It is my hope that these students recognize the legacy you and many of your colleagues sow in and out of the classroom. That they will look back as they grow in the legal field and have some reverence for the “above and beyond” that you “gift” to them and then are motivated to “pass it along.”
Hope you had some wonderful burgers!
Posted by: Tom N. | Sep 8, 2020 2:05:44 PM
Tom, I hardly know what to say. Thank you for this. I so appreciate our professional relationship and our friendship. And I am always glad that you are looking after and blessing our many alums and friends in middle Tennessee.
I do believe that our students appreciate what we give in the classroom at UT Law. I will say more about that in a subsequent BLPB post. But I will note briefly here that one of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the number of students who have reached out to express appreciation to me and my colleagues for the adjustments we have made and are making and the additional effort we are putting in. Sometimes, crisis relations bring out the best in folks. I am seeing a lot of that here.
Posted by: Joan Heminway | Sep 8, 2020 2:26:30 PM
A great illustration of the principles (not principals) that faculty qualify under the Restatement 3d of Agency not only as agents (of the university, not of their students) but also as employees (agents whose principals control the manner and means of their performance).
Posted by: Walter Effross | Sep 7, 2020 5:39:09 PM