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Posts Tagged ‘coronavirus’

I for one am overjoyed at the announcement of the government’s cunning plan for getting students home for Christmas, as it solves at a stroke the knotty problem of what to do with my Thucydides class in the final week of term. It’s always been the case that student attention tends to be lagging by then, and attendance dropping (especially for classes later in the week, as most of them disappear off home), which then creates the dilemma of whether to plough on with material regardless for the few who do turn up, having then to repeat it all at the beginning of next term, or just have an informal chat and knock off early, which then seems like short-changing the few who do bother to turn up. My solution in recent years has been a session on ‘Thucydidean Games’, not essential for the core elements of the module but containing potential both for serious analysis and for just playing some games, depending on the general mood. (more…)

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I Was Wrong

I was wrong – about so many things (thank you, the anonymous gentleman at the back), but I’m thinking specifically of developments in higher education this autumn. I really thought, after my scheduled face-to-face-in-person seminar was switched online for the first two weeks of term as part of a ‘staggered return to campus’, that I wouldn’t be back in Exeter until 2021. And I certainly imagined, as the case numbers rose (nationally and on campus), that we’d be online by now – officially, I mean, rather than the de facto situation whereby the combination of students isolating and students voting with their feet leaves me talking to one or two masked students in a room and simultaneously trying to engage with the larger numbers on the screen. (more…)

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Nothing But Flowers

It’s Reading Week – or, as various people have sagely commented on the Twitter, At Last I Can Catch Up On Sleep Get Ahead With My Teaching Prep Write Those Reviews Comment On Postgrad Drafts Spend Some Time With Family Do A Bit Of Reading Finally Get Some Research Done Hey Where Did That Go Week. And that’s in a normal year. This autumn, I imagine I’m not the only person who has found the switch to online teaching and the constant worrying about students thoroughly draining, absorbing every minute of the working day and disturbing every night – with the result that I both need to sleep for a week and have a list of overdue commitments that is at least twice as long as usual. (more…)

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It’s possible that some people reading this will remember the Grauniad‘s ‘Readers Recommend’ music blog. The set-up was simple; every week, the writer in charge of it would set a theme – ‘Songs About the Sea’, for example – and people would comment on the blog with their recommendations, arguing both from quality of music and relevance to theme (and occasionally sheer brass neck; I once got Roxy Music’s Avalon accepted as a pick for ‘Songs About Myth’ through an elaborate structuralist analysis that showed the lyrics really were a deep engagement with the Arthurian legend, references to samba notwithstanding), (more…)

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Nothing works properly.

Everything takes much longer.

Flabbiness in places it’s increasingly difficult to hide.

Is that really what I look like now?

Pervasive sense that I used to have much more energy.

Increasing tendency to use the phrase “in my day…”

Occasional thoughts that buying a really expensive new webcam might bring back the mojo.

Powerful suspicion that young people are smirking condescendingly behind my back.

Enormous sense of relief that I don’t have to worry about remembering names.

Waking in the early hours to agonise about all of this.

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I could honestly weep. This is our ‘welcome week’ before teaching starts on Monday, and today I was meeting – f2fip! – my new personal tutees. I have been trying to imagine what it must be like for them, making the transition to university in such extraordinary circumstances, and really wanted to ensure that as their tutor I could offer some degree of calm reassurance, a bit of a community, some essential guidance for the first couple of weeks while they find their feet. Well, it’s possible that I have succeeded in making them feel more confident and on top of things, in contrast to their shambolic tutor. For I was indeed the one to turn up half an hour late for the meeting because I couldn’t find my way into the building because of some very misleading signage…

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This time of year is usually the calm before the storm; the brief pause, full of anticipation and nervousness, between the end of the summer and the start of the new term, when it’s impossible to settle down to any proper research and one falls back into the fond belief – which does occasionally come true – that it’ll be fine once everything settles down into a routine. This year? It’s not the calm before the storm, it’s the frantic rushing around before the flood. The water is clearly, inexorably rising, though we don’t yet know how bad it will be. What to do? Try to shore up defences? Secure valuables? Move livestock and children to higher ground? Try to improvise a boat? Assume the worst or hope for the best?

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Connected

Whether or not anyone noticed, I’ve been less present on the internet over the last few days, as a lightning strike last week took out the WiFi router. While waiting for a new one to turn up, I’ve been discovering the delights of persuading the laptop to talk to the phone and persuade it to share its data, with a moderate degree of panic as I was scheduled to participate in a virtual Open Day this afternoon – and the joys of paying lots of extra dosh for additional data, as my usually ample allowance quickly ran out. And it’s not as if I stream stuff… (more…)

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Ignoreland

Yesterday I marked some essays, did more work on preparing next term’s teaching, produced supporting materials for an ongoing political literacy schools project and had a productive online meeting with a postgrad about his dissertation. I followed a new recipe for green coconut rice, and made some red pepper and tomato sauce from garden produce; I had a cup of espresso by the pond, watching water boatmen, dragonfly nymphs and water snails; I detected six different species of bat. And this is all good, and helps keep me grounded, and helps fend off the VAST BLACK ABYSS FULL OF TOXIC FUMES AND ENDLESS SCREAMING THAT IS EVERYTHING ELSE. (more…)

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In Your Room

Here comes the fear… I continue to be excited and energised by thinking about how to embrace the positive possibilities of teaching next year, and not too alarmed (which is not to say, not also infuriated) by the mismatch between universities’ bold promises about face-to-face-in-person (f2fip?) teaching and what a lot of emerging research is saying – hey, if we suddenly have to switch to 100% online, that’s just more of a challenge, right? – but now I’m also scared. Not about my courses, but about what happens to students in the times in between.

If our answer to the question “where are students supposed to be all week, and who are they supposed to spend it with” is “in their room, alone” we have a monumental mental health crisis coming.

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