Sunday, June 7, 2020

A different type of busy

For much of the past decade, I have been locked into a routine each summer. I teach multiple summer courses (the load depends on student demand and whatnot), score AP Psych exams, and sometimes go to a conference. I also try to catch up on data analyses to whatever extent possible, so that I can get write-ups drafted enough for possible submission. This summer would be no different. With three summer courses (two from UAFS and one from eVersity), AP Reading in Tampa, and then repliCATS and SIPS in Victoria, BC, June alone was going to be insanely busy. By the latter half of July things would slow down and I'd use that time to take a bit of breather and then to move on whatever projects needed attention, prior to another fall semester. Just business as usual.

Then COVID-19 came along. By mid-March, I was already working from home. Any seated courses were flipped online. I am used to teaching online, so although that was an adjustment for all of us (I had to figure out on the fly how to quickly transition and smooth out the rough edges, and my students had to figure out all sorts of things, including how to find wifi hotspots to do their work), it was mostly doable. It did put a halt to some research work I had lined up with a student. We got one piece of the project completed before everything went sideways. Travel restrictions, budget cuts, the very real concerns of spending hours on airplanes and in airports, etc., ended my trips to Tampa and Victoria, BC. My professional development plan that I had sent in to my dept. chair and Dean was null and void. Ended up being the least of my concerns. We've learned, hopefully, a lot over the last few months about this particular novel coronavirus. We've also seen some of the socioeconomic fault lines that this pandemic has laid bare. The protests we've witnessed the last two weeks are in some ways an example of how the pandemic made very apparent the systemic racism that pervades my particular nation. Combine with an egregious example of police brutality, and we're witnessing a possible sea change in our society - the outcomes of which are unclear.

What is clear is that everything I thought I'd do the usual way - conferences in person, grading AP exams in person, spending tons of times in bars, restaurants, crowded convention centers, crowded meeting rooms, airplanes, airports, etc. - was no more. And yet it appears I will be as busy as ever. My summer courses were already online anyway, with the exception of the second summer session, which was flipped online several weeks ago. The wildcard was eVersity, which is still establishing its course rotation. The introductory psych course got the green light, and I had a contract to sign. The AP reading will go on, but online instead of in Tampa. How much I make depends on how far above 35 hours I can or will go that week. The good folks at SIPS refunded our conference fees and set up an online version of the conference free of charge. We'll do a lot of Zoom sessions. I'll participate and contribute as I can later this month. In essence, I will apparently be just as busy these next few weeks as I would have been anyway, without ever leaving my den (which has now been transformed into my home office).

My first and most intensive round of classes is already underway. Mid-June will be very busy, and then everything simmers down, so that by the latter two weeks of July, I can focus on the matters that I am eager to work on. It may even be a busier July than expected, as I am attached to an applied project, strictly in a data analytic capacity, examining potential gender differences (and I am using gender in the proper sense here) in academic performance pre-COVID lockdown and post-COVID lockdown. The leads on that one have the theoretical rationale down. I'm there to crunch numbers once the database is made available. And although that project is specific to my institution as we figure out how to adapt and serve our student base, the hope is that it can enlighten other educators and administrators going forward.

I don't know how much I will get to blog over the coming weeks. Activity here had been a bit light to begin with the last three months. I chalk it up to the extra effort that went into working with my students as they confronted various obstacles (lost jobs, extra shifts, family health emergencies, general anxiety and depression due to isolation, etc), my own elevated stress level, and sorting out how to work with far more distractions than I had ever experienced. After all, I still am just barely young enough to have kids living at home, etc. It's been an adjustment. Like many of you, I was overwhelmed with the sheer scope of the pandemic, and I can't really say that has gone away. My state is one of those where cases are still spiking. Knock in wood, I should stay healthy, if a bit frazzled.

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