Living From Home: Day 2

by Sunita

Sunday was another work day. My workweek and weekend days have always blended together, but that’s even more true now. We have an extra week of spring break, but all of that is going to go to setting up the last five weeks of classes and everything else that happens in the spring semester. Usually it’s a hectic but enjoyable time, as senior undergraduates get ready to leave, the daffodils, tulips, and cherry blossoms come out, and warm weather beckons.

This year? This Sunday before the normal end of spring break was cold, cloudy, and breezy. We barely broke 40F. I continued working on and adding to my ToDo lists. I Skyped with one of my grad assistants and emailed with the other. I scheduled a phone conversation with my DUS alter ego. He and I have been alternating semesters as DUS for the last two years because for various reasons we weren’t able to appoint someone to the regular three-year term. He’s a good friend and wonderful colleague, so working together has been a pleasure. I wanted to run ideas by him before I took any concrete steps to manage the upheaval in undergrad teaching, which is where most of the upheaval is occurring, at least the most obvious upheaval. We figured out a plan and I’ll work on it today.

He also caught me up on what has been going on at the departmental and divisional levels. Our Arts & Sciences faculty range from people who are extremely proficient at various kinds of teaching technology to those who have never logged into Canvas, our main tech platform. Our Teaching Center is staffed by three people and is completely overwhelmed. I don’t consider myself a technophobe or technologically illiterate but there are plenty of tools I’ve never used, so who knows what the modal level of knowledge is. I guess I’ll find out for my department. And I have to make sure that the grad teaching assistants aren’t falling through the cracks, informationally or otherwise.

I managed to create an account on Qualtrics, which is the university’s survey platform, and I started devising a survey for my students to answer so that we know their situations before finalizing a revised syllabus and course plan. I still have to figure out Zoom, which is the video conferencing platform. And I want to find something like Slack so that department members have a place to talk, ask questions, share information, and so on. There are Slack channels set up by different units in the university, but I don’t think we have an institutional account with them (I don’t even know if we need one). We have something called Microsoft Teams, which may do similar stuff. Something to add to the ToDo list.

We took a break and went for a walk outside. We walked to campus and back (about 3.5 miles round trip) and went to our offices. We made sure to go nowhere but our own offices and we sanitized our hands before entering. I wore gloves to protect the doorknobs and handles I had to touch and I used my arm (covered by my jacket) to switch the lights on and off. I’m pretty confident we avoided transmitting anything assuming we have anything to transmit; no one was there and we weren’t sneezing or coughing. We wouldn’t have gone except we needed files and in my case my work laptop was still in my office, and since I wasn’t sure where a couple of files were I couldn’t easily send someone in to get them. I felt a bit guilty but I think the precautions we took were adequate.

The campus was almost entirely empty except for a handful of international students who were taking pictures of the flowering cherry blossom trees, posing in front of them and wandering around. They were wearing those completely inadequate masks, which seems to be a common response even though it doesn’t do anything but keep your droplets to yourself if you’re infected, which social distancing does without masks. I guess it’s a human response to use whatever means you have whether it’s effective or not. Kind of like buying massive amounts of toilet paper.

My project for the next two weeks is to eat through the stuff in our freezers and pantry, so we had shepherd’s pie leftovers for lunch from the freezer (better than I expected given it had been in there a while) and bottled pasta sauce over spaghetti for dinner. The pasta sauce was part of a care package from ages ago and miraculously was still before its sell-by date. I can’t remember the last time I ate bottled pasta sauce, since we always make our own. But it was from a gourmet store and made by a local chef’s company. We doctored it with anchovies, white wine and italian parsley and it was surprisingly delicious.

There are all sorts of recommendations around for binge-watching on TV, and I’m sure we’ll get around to some of them (we watched a Vera episode on Saturday night) but last night we just caught up with Friday’s Washington Week in Review and the PBS Newshour. Judy Woodruff closed the latter with a personal message, something she never does, asking us to be kind and look out for the weaker and less advantaged among us. Yes, yes.

Getting outside for a walk made such a huge difference, despite the dreariness of the day. So did showering, making the bed, and putting on non-pyjama clothes. Granted, I’m mostly in athleisure, but I’m clean and presentable. Baby steps. πŸ™‚