Among the most minor of effects of this pandemic is the delay of the (second) move of our Department to a new building on campus.
As part of a more general reorganisation, we were due to be spending a year in temporary digs, with a very big pile of packing crates holding most of our stuff until we could get into our final stop.
I mention this not because I’m complaining – I have a very good view from my office on the days that I am in it – but to illustrate the basic notion that temporary arrangements have a way of becoming rather more permanent, just like that thing you’ve been meaning to do in your home, but haven’t quite gotten around to.
[This reminds me to look up at our dining room ceiling, at the huge crack that stretches across it, just as it has done for the past 11 years. meh]
Any way, this all comes back to our shared situation, where a bunch of stuff has been thrown up in short order, without much thought to its durability.
I’ve already written about why we need to revisit our online practices for the autumn/fall, so I won’t go over that again. But I will ask you to consider the personal dimension of this.
For myself, as much as this lockdown has been very manageable, I do now notice the longer-term effects.
Sure, I know not to try and sit on the sofa for a day of typing, so I don’t get really bad backache, but the dining table and (hard) chair still don’t make such a conducive space for getting into writing/working.
Likewise, I think it’s been really good that the family has a routine to the day, but it’s not one that sits all that well with when I might produce work: it’s often at the points I’m just about get into the thing I’m procrastinating about (and I’m procrastinating a lot) that it’s time for a cuppa, or lunch, or a walk.
Yeah, I need to do stuff, but so does everyone else in the house.
But mostly, it’s the gnawing sense that I’m missing out on the soft aspects of being in my office – the interactions, the cues, the sense of a space as being for ‘work’.
I don’t want to give the impression that this is a bad problem, but it’s one that is certainly there, and I get the feeling that most of us have it in some form.
Certainly if I had crappy internet, or had to share a working room with another family member, or if our finances were badly affected by the lockdown, or a family member were stricken, then I’d be finding it a whole lot harder.
Sadly, lots of us (and lots of our students) are in just those kinds of situations.
Making something work for a few weeks is one thing, but if this how things are going to be for the foreseeable future, then that’s a whole new ballgame.
Dealing with that is going to be an ever more important part of this process, which is why I’m heartened to see growing amounts of support from employers, study associations, colleagues, friends and family out there.
But we also need to talk about such things, to help make it easier for others to do the same. You might be coping, but coping isn’t the same as thriving, and there’s not a lot of thriving going on right now.
Yes, we’ll need robust processes and practices to make the coming year work, but an essential part of that is our own emotional and professional resilience: however we teach, or facilitate learning, we still need to be in the room, both literally and metaphorically.
Maybe the trick is to pretend that would just be a temporary thing; and that way we can make it stick for good.