I assumed the role of state president of TFA in July of this year. In the past fifteen years, I have served in every official capacity of my local chapter, Lamar University TFA, because I care about the concerns and the successes of my colleagues. The Board of Directors is working on ways to better serve current TFA members and to recruit new members.
Faculty across the state are facing new challenges in teaching amid this world-wide pandemic. Universities have responded differently to faculty needs. Some have allowed faculty to make their own decisions about how they will teach: face to face, some hybrid version, or online. Others have required faculty to return to the face-to-face classroom, regardless of their age, their pre-existing health conditions, or their family members who are at risk. Some universities are more aggressive than others regarding random testing, contact tracing, and sharing information. Some have diligently required their campus communities to wear masks and to wear them appropriately while others have offered little support in enforcement to faculty when students wear their masks below their noses. Some faculty members report having to purchase their own cleaning supplies and their own PPE.
Faculty deserve to know how many students have been tested, how many have tested positive, and where these students are. This information should be readily available and reasonably current. Yet, way more colleges and universities are not posting this information on their websites than those who are. Faculty members are scared, and TFA membership is more important than ever. We can provide information and assistance. We need to hear from you, our membership. Tell us specific problems you are facing in and out of the classroom. I am trying to seize the moment as president to address gaps in Covid-19 related planning and transparency.
The TFA Board is committed to keeping our work moving forward. We have met weekly since July, working on organizing plans to enhance recruitment and engagement, press releases, website revamping, and increased communication with members during these uncertain and strange times. I am now teaching online for the first time in my twenty-year teaching career. I am learning new technology, trying out new ways to support students, and searching for new ways to motivate students. Some days I am completely overwhelmed by hundreds of emails. Like all of you, I have committee work which is made more difficult by limitations caused by the Pandemic. On most days, I feel like Covid-19 and its threats to my life, my family, and my career are overwhelming. I am concerned about what the upcoming spring semester will look like. I know my colleagues across the state face similar challenges, and I need you to know you are not alone. TFA is here to help.
~ Pat Heintzelman, Lamar University