Dear Online Student,

Did you get my email regarding Week Two’s assignment? You never submitted Week Two’s assignment, and I wanted to be sure that the failure wasn’t due to some sort of technical glitch that you weren’t aware of.

Did you get my email regarding the Extra Credit assignment? You could benefit from the Extra Credit assignment. Many of you could benefit from it. Nobody has emailed me yet to say how generous it was of me to offer the Extra Credit assignment.

Online Student, you have never responded, and I fear you never will.

I drink the leftover coffee in the Braun throughout the day. During breaks from checking my email, I prep dinner and make sure the dishes are done. I’m able to brush my teeth after each meal or snack. There is nothing like the freedom of not leaving your apartment all day. There is nothing like it because it is my own unique and personal hell.

My wife tells me she’s worried that I’m having a crisis. She leaves for work at 7:50 AM, stalling at the threshold for one brief moment of eye contact from me, anything to assure her that there is still something left of the man she loved in graduate school.

On the very first day of the term, Online Student, I stressed to you, via email, how important it was in an online class to check your email every day. Looking back, I regret not requiring some sort of confirmation reply. Something like, “hey prof burgess, no problem, it’s all good.”

Are young adults your age saying, “It’s all good,” anymore? If not, why?

If I had a classroom, one with a seminar table, and, say, you were to walk into my classroom in a somewhat jovial mood, enthused even, sporting your choice garb, what would you be wearing and what are some of the catchphrases I might overhear you say? Rumor has it you’re wearing Vans and Converse All-Stars again. Maybe they’re the same style I wore when I was your age? I could tell you what it was like to hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the FM for the first time, that my mixtapes crossed genres too, just like yours, with songs like “Dear Mama” and “Cherub Rock.” You might say something like, “That’s pretty radical, Prof. Burgess.”

In that classroom, could I be the kind of professor you end up liking so much that you post something nice on Something like, “Changed my effing life!” Or if not, maybe the kind of professor that you despise so much that you take the time to write a 300-word well-constructed critical analysis of my faults? Something like, “Prof. Burgess has a tendency to drink way too much coffee after an obviously late night of boozing and then go on sprawling tangents so that we only end up covering half of the assigned reading.”

If only I could hear you say such things, Online Student, anything, but I hear nothing. Is it my fault? Perhaps I should check the syllabus to make sure there isn’t a typo in my email address. Maybe my spam filter settings are too restrictive. Maybe if I venture into my spam folder I’ll find an untapped library of some of the world’s most passionate and well-researched critical analyses of Gummo.

I’m going there now, Online Student. I’m navigating to my spam folder now. You’ll be there, I know it. It’s loading, Online Student. My spam folder is loading, and when it’s loaded I’ll see you and your peers and I’ll know what it means to live, love, and write again as a 19-year-old not just reading Wikipedia anymore. I’ll know what it means to be out in the world again. I’ll be there with you, as soon as the spam folder finishes loading.

It’s loading. Still loading. It has loaded.

Sincerely, Your Online Instructor,
Peyton Burgess