Every year it is there, quite suddenly: the first day of semester. This morning it was a beautiful sight to see students – both new and returning – flock to class; face masks on, books, notepads, and laptops at hand, in attentive anticipation of in-class teaching. Classrooms shining in the morning sun (no joke, there was sun!), ventilation systems confidently zooming in the background, window open just to be on the safe side. We do notice things now that we did not pay attention to in the past.

For those who are new to UCR, enjoy the ride with your fellows who have been here longer. See how they enjoy themselves, back in class — in some cases they are in-class-in-person for the first time even though they have been at UCR for nearly a year!

The same enjoyment I wish for my colleagues. How we all missed to bring what we love to do and are pretty good at: small-scale and intensive teaching. Let us all experience how much better teaching is when it is done in-class. Enjoy the discussions, enjoy the stand-up lectures, listen to the energy and joy in a classroom laughing, giggling, expressing a sense of wonder. As Faculty and Staff we had a great team building day last Thursday, which ended on the beach, as it should for UCR-folk. I can tell you that the team is ready to take you students far this semester.

The beauty of being back in class will be that for the first time in a very long time teaching and learning will be engaged in relatively unmediated. That is to say: they will be engaged in without us being constantly aware of the media which connect us. Simply being near each other while cooperating and communicating is a cultural and evolutionary given too old to be neglected easily. So I hope and expect that we will be a bit less tired this year. The physical exercise of coming to UCR on foot or by bike will be helpful too!

A small number of students and colleagues have for health reasons had to choose to continue joining classes online. As much as we need to go back to a state of normalcy, we will not leave them behind and will find ways to engage them in our teaching and learning. The pandemic has been a phase of learning and experimenting and you will find that the advantages of online tutoring, supervisions, and quick zoom check-ins as if they were telephone calls will be here to stay. Our classes focus on in-person approaches but UCR is fine with such developments; pay close attention to how they work for you and let each other know so as to find back to a satisfying form of normalcy.

Enjoy each other’s company, stay safe, and have a great semester!