LFH: Day 10

by Sunita

We held our first classes yesterday, and they went pretty well. TheH and I both have classes in the 10am slot, so we went into our workspaces, which are in side-by-side rooms, closed the doors and logged into Zoom. I had about 75% turnout in both classes, which was pretty good I thought. TheH had even more. I hadn’t scheduled any readings or discussion, they were just check-ins and chances to ask questions about the revised syllabi and requirements.

It was so good to see their faces! Since most of my students are juniors and seniors, quite a few were still here in St. Louis. Another big group were on the east coast, mostly in the NY area and in isolation. I got the first class to work smoothly but in the second class I managed to start with my audio muted and didn’t realize it despite the chat messages piling up on the right: “Prof. P., you’re muted!” But I eventually got myself straightened out and we chatted for a while. I explained the changes and that they could take the class pass/fail and still get major credit. I also emphasized, though, that I was going to teach as much of the material as I could, because our interest hadn’t gone away. There were professors who were talking about ending their classes, giving all As, and the like, but I wasn’t going to do that. (Although my grading is going to be more forgiving this semester, that’s for sure.)

It was stressful getting ready for the classes. TheH and I did a test run on Zoom beforehand since neither of us had initiated a meeting before. I set up all the class meetings in the Zoom option within Canvas but they only showed up in the class lists for one class even though all the sessions had been successfully created. I also picked a bad time to switch my work laptop to Linux. It doesn’t work as well with Zoom and I couldn’t get the audio to work. Zoom, along with Microsoft Teams, works best in the Chrome browser and doesn’t have all its features working in Firefox. So there I was, in Linux, but still having to download and install Chrome. Grrr. Anyway, I abandoned Linux for the day and set up my little Surface Go, which I knew worked with everything, and hooked it up to the dock and monitor so I could have a big screen to see the Brady-Bunch squares of my students in the bigger afternoon class (46 in the afternoon, 25 in the morning). I’ll see if I can fix the Zoom problem on the Linux laptop today, because I’d like to keep that setup if I can. I’ll just dedicate all my communications stuff to the Chrome browser, which isn’t a bad deal (Zoom has a Linux app but people have audio problems in that one too, from what I hear).

By the time my second class was done I was exhausted. I caught up on some work email and then crashed for an hour or so. I woke up in time to walk the dogs with TheH.

Sitting all day at a desk when it’s cloudy and breezy outside is COLD, people. I bundled up as much as I could, and we turned up the heat, but all that enforced immobility made me reach for ever-warmer wraps. I don’t think either of us really got warm until the evening. The 5pm news was interrupted again by the DIP scheduling his daily briefing in time to run over into the national broadcasts, but while the local news cut away, the national desks switched back to their regular broadcasts even though there was no end in sight to the ramblings. The most noteworthy item was the DIP’s positions that the business of America is business and the economy had to be protected. Great. At this point I am one degree of separation from several cases of Coronavirus and I believe the scientists’ fears about a big spike overloading the hospitals. So I’ll keep practicing social distance, thanks very much, and following my university and city leaders’ policies. Thank goodness for decentralized government.

I spent the cocktail hour and the stretch between dinner and bedtime dealing with administrative issues. We’re allowing study-abroad students to enroll in ongoing classes if their overseas programs aren’t going online and providing full-credit semesters. But that raises all sorts of questions for us, and we don’t have detailed policies in place yet. And there are other student issues that crop up. We did have a nice dinner. We were watching America’s Test Kitchen, which we enjoy so much more now that the Bow Tie Guy is gone and has his own show. They were making Duchess Potatoes, which would take longer than we had to make, so we made mashed potatoes instead and put Beef Burgundy from the freezer over them, with shredded brussels sprouts on the side. I can’t say we haven’t been eating pretty well through all this.

Today I have to corral my colleagues who are evaluating honors theses and get them to turn in their reports, write up and figure out the tech for two PowerPoint lectures with audio commentary, and come up with worksheets for Wednesday’s readings. And I have three Zoom conferences. And it’s going to rain. Again. But there is some sun and 70+ temperatures in the forecast for later this week, at last! I need to get out into the fresh air again for longer than it takes to walk the Corgis around the neighborhood.