This morning marks the start of the third week of the fall quarter at DePaul. As expected, things aren’t the way they used to be before the start of the pandemic, even with DePaul’s cautious approach of required vaccinations and masks. The building is more deserted than usual, and there are colleagues I haven’t seen yet and likely won’t see at all since they’re teaching solely online. Recognizing my students’ faces, and memorizing their names, is tougher with masks. I dislike having to scold students who don’t wear their mask over both their nose and mouth, although I do it to protect everyone’s health. And it turns out that drinking water while I teach is something I really like and definitely miss.

But even with all that, being back in person is everything that I hoped and more. I’ve been able to see colleagues again, and I even got to go out to dinner (outside) with one of them earlier this week. Teaching through a mask isn’t hard at all, although it is hotter especially in the stuffy room I have in the late afternoon. Even my commute is pleasant since it appears that most offices in downtown Chicago aren’t requiring people to be back yet, leaving the trains very empty even at prime commute times. Having an hour to read every day on a nearly empty train is much more fun than I remember.

But most of all I’m appreciating seeing and being with my students. On Monday in my late afternoon class I gave them a programming exercise to work on. Before I called time one of the students suddenly clapped his hands together, obviously happy that he had correctly completed the exercise. It’s been 21 months since I’ve been able to see something like that, and it was a delight. I quietly thanked him for letting me experience it. The energy I get from being in the room with students is amazing, and I think they’re as happy as I am to be there.