Adapting vs changing: a year in review

By Maria Lattanze
April 18, 2021

To be honest, I am starting to forget what “normal” was before the pandemic, and I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

Maybe it’s good because I was able to quickly and smoothly adapt to the pandemic and the new procedures without any complaint.  Maybe it’s bad because the pandemic has manipulated our way of living in society.

Good or bad, I can certainly feel is numb.

I am incredibly numb to everything now; the mask-wearing, the constant hand-sanitizing, the tests, the new rules, the overload of information of the virus. All in all, I feel numb.  The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us in many different ways over the course of the year, but I have definitely adapted from when it first began.

Campus Life/Class Modalities

Completing classes through online learning.
Photo by Maria Lattanze

In March of 2020, Cabrini University transferred all classes to an online modality and we all had to learn how to use different software such as Zoom, BlackBoard Learn and Microsoft Teams. Students were also forced off-campus in the middle of the second semester.

In the moment, I was very stressed and overwhelmed with the new information.  My roommate and suitemates rushed to get our things packed and out of the dorm before inspections the following week.  It felt surreal to move out when it felt like we had just moved in.  It also took a while to learn the new software to continue Zoom online; not to mention, lesson plans were changed and modified due to the course structure change.

One year later I am back on campus but opted to remain online for classes.  I emailed my professors explaining about keeping a small COVID-bubble and who was susceptible at home.  I found new ways of learning and studying.  

My roommate moved back for only one semester but moved out for the second.  Currently, It is just me and my one suitemate living in a four-person suite.  Needless to say, I have changed the room to make it more spacious.

I don’t see most of my friends on campus because most did not move back and it’s crazy to see how empty the campus is during the week.  However, during nice, warm weather days, there is an abundance of students working on homework outside on picnic tables, walking on campus and meeting in the common area.  I ran into a few of my friends when walking on campus on those nice days.

Off-Campus Work

Virtual karate classes via Zoom.
Photo by Maria Lattanze

Karate classes were put on a hold for a month after the governor shut down non-essential businesses.  It was a long month before the school was able to set up a Zoom account and start online classes.  Before we started Zoom, we attempted Facebook Live once a week to try to keep the students engaged with karate. Once we started Zoom, we set up new class days and times.  

To help with motivation, my boss created a private Facebook page, strictly for parents and students of the karate school, for videos and pictures to be posted of the students practicing karate at home, and for us instructors to comment on and make any corrections in the curriculum at the time.  It was a great system until there were technical difficulties on our end and student’s ends.

Luckily, with Cabrini having a headstart on learning Zoom, I was able to help solve most of the technical issues on our end and introduce new concepts of teaching.  Slowly, but surely, we transitioned to outdoor classes during the summer and eventually a limited number of students for indoor classes.  We kept Zoom classes for those who wished to remain socially distanced and I took over as the instructor on Zoom.

Looking back on this, it was extremely stressful trying to figure out how to stay in business during the pandemic when we were forced to close for time being.  But, I have to say, the pandemic has definitely helped me become closer to my students.  Before, I only taught in person on Fridays and Saturdays, but now that we have Zoom, I have picked up more shifts and I am teaching Zoom during the week at Cabrini.   We have also started to host in-person events and birthday parties with a limited number of attendees.

Being a digital communication major, it’s made teaching through a computer easy because I am used to being in front of a camera and talking to a screen.  I have also found new and fun ways to teach the students. Seeing them laugh and smile brightens my day every time.

Karate

On another note, I have yet to test for my third degree.  When the school shut down in March 2020 and classes were moved to virtual learning, I continued to practice for the test as the date continued to be pushed back further into the year until eventually, I knew I would not be testing in the year 2020.

Preparing for the 3rd Dan test.
Photo by Maria Lattanze

In the moment, I was heartbroken, as I was prepared and excited to test for my third-degree black belt.  Eventually, I lost the motivation to continue to prepare for a test that was “up in the air.” Once I moved back to college, I was mainly focused on my studies and the two additional jobs I held on campus.

However, there were times in which I did take virtual classes via Zoom in order to keep up with my routines and criteria for the test.  I have to admit, I thought teaching on Zoom was challenging because I had to mirror everything, but learning is completely different.  There were times when I couldn’t hear the instructor, times when a student would stand in front of the camera, times when the instructor would not be mirroring, times when I was the only virtual student, etc.  Eventually, I got the hang of things and found the motivation to start re-practicing my testing criteria.

And I am happy to say that I will be testing for my third-degree black belt on April 20, 2021.

Has the pandemic been rough?  Absolutely.  But, did I learn to adapt and find new ways to do things?  You bet because I kept the promise I made to myself when the pandemic first started: “I will not fear the virus and it will not stop my plans I have made or anything that I am doing. I will adapt and I will be careful and mindful of how I do my activities, but I will not change them.”

Maria Lattanze

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