Saturday, June 20, 2020

Our plans aren't firm, but yours had better be

There's a steady drumbeat across the land. Do you hear it?

It's called "what are you doing in the fall?" and unlike the university, which has an infinity of time to make up its mind, we instructors are supposed to make ours up tout de suite.

What we still don't know:

1. Whether and how obvious steps like providing masks for everyone are going to happen.
2. Whether we're supposed to teach in masks or those face shields. I have an issue there with face shields, because I can't have anything on my head or I get a raging headache (even winter hats and headphones bring this on).
3. Whether modifications are going to be made to the open toilets in the bathrooms so that they're not spewing virus.
4. Ditto door handles--can we get something better that doesn't require you to wrestle it to a standstill with both hands?
5. Where our classes will be held. This is kind of a Catch-22, and it's not all the university's fault; they can't assign rooms until they figure out who's going to be on campus. But by the same token, we need to know if we're going to have to teach in a poorly ventilated--i.e., no windows--classroom for up to 3 hours at a stretch.
6. What's going to happen if people do show up with a temperature. This last is extremely concerning, because by that point, the person may have already infected people, including people with vulnerable family members. (Raises hand.) Checking to see if people are sick: good, but not enough. This isn't the flu, where there are treatments. People often die or are disabled by this disease.
7. What magic fairies are going to clean the classrooms often enough to make a difference.
8. Where the additional recording equipment, cameras, and helpers for the in-person and online recorded materials are going to come from. 

What we do know:

1. We instructors need to let them know what we're planning in about 10 days.
2. We are strongly encouraged to teach in person for the good of the university.
3. We need to let them know what our concerns or conditions are if we are not going to teach in person.

To back up a minute: in Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes or one of his other novels, one character is  talking about the "smoking may be hazardous to your health" warnings on cigarette packs.

One of his friends comes in and says it ought to be more blunt: "Smoking will kill you f**** dead."

My "concerns," in a nutshell?

"Covid can kill you f**** dead."


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Our university has pushed everyone who possibly can to teach remotely—preferring asynchronous online presentation to synchronous lectures (probably to retain students who live in China). Only a few courses (mostly labs) will be allowed to be in person, and faculty wishing to teach in person have to come up with a plan whereby social distancing, masking, and cleaning of shared surfaces are arranged.

This will not be easy—I'll be spending all summer working on adapting my hands-on lab course to be doable at home, but it does seem like the lower-risk option.

Bev said...

We're getting such mixed messages--it's frustrating! We know we'll have to wear masks to teach unless we're standing behind the new plexiglass dividers at the computer console in front of the classroom, but who will clean all that plexiglass and how often? There are a million questions like that. One thing we still don't know is whether we will have hot water in the rest rooms in the building where I teach. Yes, I know, it sounds bizarre, but I've worked in that building for 20 years without hot water, until suddenly in March someone made the difficult decisions to flip a switch and turn the hot water on. What a luxury! But now this week it was off again. Maybe it's just a fluke and the hot water will be turned on again soon, but why do we have to waste time worrying about such a thing when we have so many other things to think about?

Maya said...

My college is treating Covid as an inconvenience to plan around as well. The actual "planning" honestly seems more like crossed fingers rather than anything else :/.

Bardiac said...

My school is planning to be face to face as much as possible, but with social distancing, they're finding they actually have space for only 2/3rds of students. So instead of figuring out who NEEDS to teach from home, and who may want to for really good reasons, and using those folks to reduce class numbers, they're saying we're going to teach one third of the class each of Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or half on Tuesday, half on Thursday, and figure out how to do that.

It's bleeping frustrating! It will be worse than either fully face to face or fully in person. By far!

xykademiqz said...

We've been told centrally (campus): online for classes over 50, in-person (everyone in masks, instructor with a plastic visor) for smaller classes w social distancing. But from my department chair and dean I hear that large classes will be split into sections so each is under 50 people, b/c undergrads to be taught in person as much as possible (otherwise fear they won't enroll this year); online teaching of grad students, many of whom are stuck overseas (80% of incoming grad class is international). I was supposed to teach a grad class, that was given to a junior faculty member, so I presently don't know what I will teach or when, but it will likely be multiple sections of one of our large-enrollment sophomore classes. We will end all in-person instruction on Thanksgiving, but instead of starting early, we won't, and instead will go another few weeks past Thxgiving all online. For added fun, naturally.

gwinne said...

Although my uni is 'welcoming students back to campus' in practical terms we cannot accommodate much face-to-face instruction w/available classroom space and social distance requirements. The official word now is about 50% online, 25% hybrid, and 25% f-t-f, for things like labs and performance class. But most of that was decided at college and department levels; in practical terms, for all but a tiny group of classes in a sub-discipline, my entire department is online. I don't like it pedagogically, but I'm happy to have the decision largely made for me and with public health in mind. Our k-12 schools haven't figured out what they're doing. Situation where I'm teaching online and kids are in school might be the absolute best right now...

undine said...

gasstationwithoutpumps--good luck! Transferring lab activities to online must be the absolute hardest thing to do.

Bev--yes: who's going to clean it all? It's mind-boggling to think that the bathrooms don't have hot water, yet news reports have said that this is common. If they can & did flip that switch before, why not leave the hot water on?

Maya--they live in hope, don't they? Is that why these questions don't occur to them?

Bardiac--that sounds like our plan here: the worst of both worlds. With cases rising, I'm hoping they'll decide for online.

xykademiqz--we have that limit of over 50 students = online, too. The no in-person classes after Thanksgiving sort of makes sense, but honestly, it's tough enough to engage students at that time of the year without introducing a whole new classroom dynamic. We're doing that too, I think.

gwinne--I wish that they would make this decision for us (online). I saw that the American Academy of Pediatrics (?) is urging that K-12 schools reopen, so maybe they know something that we don't about how safe that will be.

Z said...

The title of this post says it all.