What I've Learned at Hermiona University
It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of July. Many of us have been in quarantine since the middle of March, making for four months of solitude -- or at least it feels that way. Even with Zoom classes and socially distant walks with friends, I often find myself saying that nothing really feels the same anymore. I miss getting lunch with my best friend at our favorite restaurant, and I miss hugging my grandparents. But I’ve also come to miss the screech of nails on a chalkboard and running late to class. I miss the realities of student life.
Hermiona has tried to fill that gap, to the extent that we can. For the first time ever, we launched a series of online classes with experts such as Ksenia Turkova, the anchor of such programs as Echo of Moscow, Voice of America, and Hromadske TV, and Marta Molfar, one of the best known voices of the Russian-speaking world. We had three (!!!) separate sessions of our signature Writing Intensive. And perhaps most excitingly (at least for me), we had students joining us from all over the world: from Kyiv, Moscow, and Novosibirsk, to Miami, Los Angeles, and Boston (and that’s only a few of the cities represented).
But I think we learned a lot, too -- outside of class. Organizing such a project is hard work -- and, perhaps more relevantly, an entirely new endeavor for us. I’d say we’ve learned a lot, even with (or perhaps even thanks to) all of the technical snags.
For one, we gained fluency in the language of Google Classroom. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Our tech team was working overtime to make sure the experience was smooth for everyone -- and when it wasn’t, they were burning the midnight oil in order to figure out why.
We learned how to create courses that people found interesting. We learned that even though the Hermiona team might find certain things interesting, our students might not. So we spent time and energy asking you what you wanted to learn about and who you want to learn it from.
We learned how to create community among students who have never met each other. Sounds easy? Not when teaching online! Students gathered from all over the world to learn with us, and we had to learn how to make them feel like peers and equals, when they might feel like they’re interacting with little more than a screen.
I could go on and on… but more than anything, perhaps, it’s been a pleasure to get to meet so many of our students, even if online. As Hermiona’s Senior Educational Consultant, I know almost all of our students in some way or another: maybe I’ve been their consultant on an application of some kind, or maybe I’ve tutored them for the SAT. Perhaps I was the one who performed their intake interview or test analysis. But now, very excitingly, I get to be in the classroom with them -- as a fellow student! And while I can’t say that I’m grateful for COVID-19, I’m grateful that it’s created an opportunity for me to do so.