Texas Tech University

COVID-19 Shutdown Affects Graduate Students, Too

Kaylee Grandage

May 21, 2020


Kaylee Grandage not only saw her own pursuit of a master’s degree altered, but also the school year for the Dallas-area kindergarten students she was teaching.

Kaylee Grandage will receive a master's degree in educational and instructional technology at Texas Tech University. Her reflections of her final college semester is the fourth in a series of senior perspectives, which will appear each Monday and Thursday through the month of May at today.ttu.edu.

When I started my master's degree program, I always looked forward to the happiness and celebration of graduation day. I attended Texas Tech University for my bachelor's degree and graduated in 2015 with a degree in elementary education, so I knew what I would be looking forward to when undertaking a master's degree in educational and instructional technology.

During the long nights of finishing assignments after coming home from a full-time teaching job, or being unable to attend weekend plans because my assignments were due, the image that continued to bring me motivation was how I would feel on graduation day. I am currently living in the Dallas area, so I had begun to make my travel arrangements months ago. My parents, fiancé, sister and even some friends had all planned to take time to come watch me walk the stage and celebrate my accomplishments.

I was so looking forward to meeting the friends I had made through these last two years of online learning, in person, instead of through a video conferencing application. Instead, due to COVID-19, a picture of me will flash through a slideshow for a virtual graduation ceremony. I will be watching alone, at home, with my cat to cheer me on. The travel plans that were made so many months ago have been cancelled and possibly rescheduled for an August graduation ceremony.

I am so thankful to Texas Tech for providing alternative options, and I know that in the big picture, having a graduation ceremony is miniscule, but it was an accomplishment that I had looked forward to for so long. The celebrations may look different, but at the end of the day, I will have a master's degree in educational and instructional technology, and no virus can take that away from me.

The other impact this has had on my life is that my job was turned upside-down. I am a Kindergarten teacher, and if I would have known that the last time I would have seen my students this school year was while they walked out the classroom door before Spring Break, I would have hugged them for so much longer.

My heart breaks thinking that I won't get to share in the joys of the end of the school year with them. We had a field trip to a local animal rescue planned for the end of April; they will not get to walk across the stage as Kindergarten graduates or experience the excitement of coming to school on the last day of school.

I am grateful because technology has allowed me to see them through Zoom and videos submitted through an online learning platform, but it's nowhere near the same. I wanted to be able to see their faces light up as they read their books and see the light in their eyes when they finally master the math concepts I've been teaching. My classroom is a place where kids should be learning and engaged, not sitting empty in the dark.

I also am thankful for a teaching team who always goes above and beyond to do what's right for our students, no matter how much extra work it brings.

However, if there are bright sides to all of this, it's these two things. The first is that I was already enrolled in a distance learning program, so I have been completing my degree online since I began in June 2018. Because of this, my degree was minimally affected, and I was able to continue with my assignments and class work as usual.

The next is that my dream upon graduation was to become an online learning instructor in some capacity, whether it be for a K-12 curriculum or a university or community college. Before the virus, there were not many online learning programs aimed at an elementary level. Now, teachers like myself turned their entire curriculums into online learning in a matter of hours.

I am hopeful that, through all of this, I am able to use my degree to pursue my dreams and be able to author an online learning program, and know that graduation ceremony or not, I was able to get real, authentic experience due to the pandemic.