LFH: Day 7
One week down, one to go on our self-isolation. Although our self-isolation feels increasingly like a technical description of our everyday life now. We’re still asymptomatic and given we’re past the median point of becoming symptomatic (and close to the 2/3 point), it seems likely that we didn’t contract the virus. The best would be if we did and had very mild cases, but we can’t count on that, obviously, so after Day 14 we’ll move from assuming we can transmit it to assuming we can contract it.
I started work yesterday by dealing with a problem that was not COVID-19-related. It was a student issue and took two days, five people and a couple of dozen emails to resolve. On the one hand I was annoyed at being asked to fix something that wasn’t part of the immediate crisis situation. On the other, it was weirdly reassuring to solve the kind of “normal” problem that crops up because undergraduates inevitably want the system to accommodate their last-minute changes of heart, mind, and/or curriculum. We were able to find a solution that made the student happy. And then back to crisis-as-normal work.
I should have finished unpacking and setting up my home office yesterday but I got bogged down doing a bunch of small tasks. I did get out and take a brisk 45-minute walk in the park in the afternoon. There were quite a few joggers, walkers, and bicyclists on the path, all of us attempting to maintain lots of distance. It was cold, windy, and cloudy but it felt so good to be out of doors. I’m very grateful that this disaster allows for outdoor exercise in most places. TheH went out as well, but we took separate walks. He needed a break in the morning when I was tied up and I got mine in the afternoon. I pointed out to him that since we’re together almost 24/7 and will be for a while, we might want to use our outdoor opportunities to have some solitary time.
On my walk I listened to Monday’s Guardian Football Weekly podcast, which was taped after the Premier League suspended its schedule but before many of the other sports and non-sports shutdowns had been announced. There is a hard to hear but necessary interview with their La Liga reporter, Sid Lowe, about the situation in Spain. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to listen to their podcasts before this. I had tried to listen to last Thursday’s podcast while traveling back from the UK on Friday, but the feeling of the season slipping away, and Liverpool’s first title in 30 years with it, was still too painful. I’m mostly over that now. It looks as if they’ll try very hard to finish the season, because it’s not just the title but Champions League places, relegation, and promotion to be determined. But even if they don’t, it’s not that important. People staying alive through a pandemic is important. If you don’t believe me, believe Liverpool’s manager, Jürgen Klopp. His comments and messages have been exactly what everyone should hear about football and society.
I sent out updates to both my classes, telling them they’d be getting their syllabi soon and telling them I miss them. I’m nervous about Monday. It’s uncharted territory for all of us, and it’s hard to strike the balance between giving them flexibility and using deadlines and requirements to show them that their work still matters, that we still want them to learn, that their desire to learn is still worth nurturing. Some professors think we should cancel the semester and give everyone a Pass grade, or even As across the board. I don’t agree. I don’t want anyone to fail because of what happened to them this semester, but I don’t think writing off the semester without even trying to salvage something is the best solution. My students don’t just care about their grades, they care about the issues they took the class to learn about. They care that their efforts are recognized and validated. They care that I care what they are doing. All of that requires work, and we’ll get it wrong, no question. But we have to try. If we can’t do it, OK, then we can throw in the towel. But come Monday we will start Part Two of Spring 2020.
We had our monthly A&S faculty meeting via Zoom at the end of the workday. There weren’t as many people signed in as I expected, way less than the Town Hall on Thursday. We got a bit of new news, but mostly recaps and reminders of why we need to be off campus. The Dean of the College updated us on what she’d be sending out to the students after the meeting, so we know what they’ve been told and what they expect from us. While we were on that meeting the Chancellor sent out a message with a photo of his empty office and the empty corridor leading to it, to emphasize that everyone except absolutely essential personnel were to stay away.
We had the same lunch yesterday that we had the day before, because it was delicious and worth repeating: fried rice with onions, broccoli, and fried chicken. Yes, fried chicken! You cut up leftover fried chicken (in our case leftover wings from the chicken joint) and put them in your regular, simple Chinese fried rice recipe. You can use whatever vegetables you have, plus leftover fried rice, with soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar as the flavorings. It’s really good and takes about fifteen minutes to prepare. Highly recommended.
We checked on our neighborhood Thai restaurant and found they were still doing delivery and takeout, so we ordered a bunch of our favorite dishes from them for dinner. I added them to the local newspaper’s list of restaurants that are still open and offering takeout/delivery. TheH said there were a few bags of takeout waiting on the counter when he picked up ours, so that is a good sign. The food was just as good as it usually is, and they gave us a free Vietnamese coffee as a bonus. We started thinking of the other family-run places we patronize and started making a list so that we could rotate among them. We’re happy cooking for ourselves but as long as they’re trying to stay open we want to help them make it.
The NYT has a story on the spread of COVID-19 across the country, with breakdowns at the county level of how the spread will work with different levels of interventions. They also have state-level graphs. It’s far from perfect because the state-level data are flawed, but what’s interesting is that the peaks happen at different times across the country. They model the coasts as peaking earlier than the interior states. I’ll be curious to see if these models hold up; they’re based on reported cases, which in turn is dependent on how much testing there is more than the actual number of cases that exist (reported vs. total, basically). But it’s still interesting to look at, and at least some of their predictions should pan out.
Today is Saturday, so no Zoom meetings or emails with office staff. Just working at home on the stuff I need to get done. And getting exercise.
I think you’re exactly right about the students. They want to learn and your job is still to help them do that, as far as possible. And I think we all need as much normality as we can manage. It might make sense to be generous in grading, but I would not be handing As out to every student.
@Ros: Continuing as normally as possible for the things that make us feel better is critical. TheH’s students are checking in and asking what they can do, and I’ve had a few students contact me, so I know they’re out there, hanging in and trying, like the rest of us.
Oh yes! to supporting the local restaurants. Our favorite (tiny) sandwich shop was doing steady business on Thursday when we stopped by to pick up our lunch order. I was amused/encouraged to see the customers line up approx 6 feet apart, with no prompting.
The students who really want to learn will find a way to do so. As long as you are accessible, it should all work out in the long run. Good luck.
@Barb: Yay for the tiny sandwich shop! I checked my local newspaper and they had added the info I entered on our Thai restaurant, so hopefully that will get the word out more widely.
Colleague’s husband is teaching business in one of NY colleges and actually attempting to teach full class ( like broadcasting himself doing a lecture ). I don’t know if that makes sense at all for you? I think he is teaching a lot of students at the same time .
@Cheburashka: My two classes are lecture/discussion combined, so doing a long lecture would probably not work. But I’m doing short videos and other things so we’ll see how it goes.