Weeknote 9

by Sunita

Grading is done! Well, except for one laggard case and I’ll have that in later today. I still have commencement and a couple of reports to go, but then the semester will really be over. I’ll believe it when I see it, though, given everything.

We had not one, not two, but three Zoom Happy Hours this past week. It was a lot of fun to catch up with people. Two of the meetings are semi-regular and the other is one we promised each other we’d do again.


The university is having a series of events to substitute for commencement, and our department is of course participating. We are in the process of putting together the real-time session and accompanying materials. I am glad we’re doing something, but I am the worst at Big Events (I avoid them as much as possible) so it’s a mixed bag for me. I know it’s a good thing but I hate the process! But it will be over soon.

I have two undergraduate students who want to work with me on research projects this summer. The drying up of internships and the general inability to find ways to fill their summer productively has made them even more interested in working with faculty than they usually are.

I also plan to sit down and map out the next few weeks workwise. I know I need a bit of a break but I also need to make sure I don’t just sit around and do nothing, or the equivalent of nothing.

Like everyone else in academics, I’ve been thinking a lot about what teaching is going to look like in the fall. I’ve seen lots of advice from people who teach online regularly, and some of it is really helpful. But some of it is not applicable. What residential colleges and universities have to do (and all face-to-face institutions to some extent) is devise a way to integrate the online or non-physical instruction with the pedagogical goals we have to retain. A lot of online instruction assumes that students are operating as discrete, atomized learners, whereas traditional residential instruction is predicated not just on teacher-student interaction, but interactions among students. At least that’s the case in my classes. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the curriculum. Labs are different from seminars are different from lecture/discussion-section hybrids. And we still have to tackle the residential part of this.

There are a bunch of different options out there, from locked down, shorter but more intense semesters to two half-semesters to starting later. I know our committees are discussing all of these. Some schools have decided already. Those of us who are teaching in the fall can’t really plan our courses until we know what the overall format is going to be. So it will be interesting to see what the outcomes and recommendations of our various committees are.


I’m working my way through the Murderbot novellas. They are fun. I’m more engaged this time than I was last time and I should be done with all four by the end of the week. Then I can read the novel.

I’m also reading Angela Thirkell’s Northbridge Rectory at a leisurely pace. Nothing much happens, except of course for the fact that there is a war on and the Germans are flying bombers over them regularly. The novel is all about the homefront and people who are trying to get through their normal lives in abnormal times. Movement is limited, food is rationed or unavailable, and there is a growing sense of a world that is changing in ways that can’t be rolled back. Most of the characters are middle-aged or older, although there are a few young people and billeted officers to liven up the setting. It’s classic Thirkell and I’m enjoying it. I don’t remember the characters and storyline very well; I would have read this first when I was in my teens and probably skimmed it because there isn’t a central romance the way there is in the novels that precede it. But this time around it’s definitely hitting the spot.

We watched another Maigret from Season 2 and we caught up on episodes of World on Fire and Baptiste. We hadn’t been quick enough on the latter to still have free access to Episode 2 (it’s on PBS), so we just went on to Episode 3. I read a recap of the former afterward and we missed a little bit but not much that was critical. When you have one main storyline and 6 hours to tell it, you wind up with a lot of cul-de-sacs and backstory. It’s pretty good, though, and Tom Hollander is predictably excellent.


TheH scored a big pack of toilet paper on his weekly grocery shop run last week. But more importantly, there were containers of Chlorox disinfecting wipes at Target! It was like hitting the lottery number. The limit was one container per customer, but that’s one more than we’ve been able to find, let alone buy, in the last two and a half months. It was very exciting.

We’ve been working on our back deck and yard to make them more user-friendly. The plants are coming along nicely; our azaleas bloomed beautifully this year. We wanted to get a giant umbrella for the deck because its southern exposure makes it really hot in the afternoon if the sun is out. But IKEA, which has one which would be perfect, is closed and apparently not delivering, or at least not reliably. As an alternative we bought a camping sun tarp from REI. It’s big enough to cover more than half of the deck and we’re able to anchor it securely. We have to take it down on windy and stormy days, but it doesn’t take long to put it up or pack it away, so we think it will work. It makes the deck much more usable.

I’m feeling better about going outside for exercise even when the paths are crowded after reading this post on Coronavirus transmission. It’s fascinating to see all the findings aggregated together and discussed in one place by someone who has the training and expertise to interpret the research. The highest levels of transmission occur in closed spaces where people congregate for sustained periods of time. It makes me sad that collective social and business events like parties and conferences (and funerals) are breeding grounds, but it makes sense. It also makes sense that airflow in closed spaces is a critical factor in how the virus spreads or doesn’t.


I’ll wrap up the work stuff that’s due in the next week or two and start putting together the material I need for the reports to the next DUS. And TheH and I will continue to talk about how to manage the summer. We don’t have to make any long-term decisions any time soon, thank goodness.