The COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns have been especially hard on seniors who were expecting to celebrate major milestones this season, including graduation. Now, a University of Oregon student talks about preparing for the job market.
21-year-old Elizabeth Soper has graduated from the University of Oregon with degrees, in music education, flute performance, and a minor in nonprofit administration.
Soper became interested in music when she participated in an elementary school talent show when she was in kindergarten. As Soper got older, she joined a choir and started playing instruments such as the piano, violin, flute, saxophone, and oboe.
“It wasn't until about sixth grade that I decided I definitely wanted music to be my profession,” said Soper. “So by sixth grade I had already decided I wanted to be a band teacher. And since then, I kind of just kept playing as much music as I could.”
Soper was supposed to move to Portland to be a student teacher at Grant High School for her final term. But when school buildings closed, her teaching program was modified to an experience without schools, mentor teachers, or students. Assignments included preparing eight to 10 lesson plans as if student teachers were in front of a classroom.
“My lessons were based as if I was in a band classroom,” said Soper. “But when I'm teaching and recording videos, there's no one around me and [I’m] just teaching to an empty room as if it was a room full of students. So our professors at the university are reviewing these videos and giving us tips and tricks on how our teaching could be more effective.”
But she said the experience has not been what she expected. Soper said she was disappointed to miss out on the student teaching experience because it allows students to understand the workload of a teacher, and learn additional skills that were not discussed during their classes.
“This is basically the exact opposite of what I imagined my term was going to be,” said Soper. “[I was] imagining 60- hour weeks of just teaching and preparing to teach. I spent four years preparing for this rigorous term. Now suddenly, it's like summer break but three months early.”
To mark this milestone, Soper was hoping to participate in an in-person graduation ceremony, as well as celebrate by taking a trip with her friends.
“A couple of my friends are planning [a] trip to Disneyland this summer if everything gets better,” said Soper. “And that's kind of been our hope in these dark times. And even if we don't end up going because things are still unsafe or a little bit concerning, that trip has kind of been the thing that give us hope during this time.”
Now, Soper is trying to find a job as schools prepare for the impending recession.
“The only slightly nerve wracking thing about all of it, is a lot of school districts right now have hiring freezes because of all of the worries about the economy right now,” said Soper. “So it's hard to find jobs as of right now because of the hiring freezes. But hopefully everything will settle down soon and the jobs will start posting.”
Soper has been completing job interviews and hopes to get a job in the fall.
This story is part of a series of audio postcards documenting the missed milestones of graduating high school and college seniors.