Diary of a Quarantined Friday

Thursday, Apr 23, 2020| Tags: teaching, remote teaching

10:29am

I wake up exactly one minute before my alarm. Good job, me! I open my phone to a sea of notifications. I ignore them and open twitter to see the latest coronavirus news.

10:30am

My alarm goes off, scaring the bejeezus out of me.

10:45am - 10:55am

I pull myself away from the stress-scrolling and take a shower. Good job, me!

10:57am - 11:00am

I make tea. Then I attempt to answer my several emails and texts in 3 minutes, because time has no meaning. I get through one semi-witty response to my family’s group email, and one semi-helpful response to my colleague. Semi-good job, me!

11:00am

I sign on to Zoom for office hours. I’m getting the hang of this, right?

My Zoom background is Admiral Adama’s chambers of Battlestar Galactica, which means I am both a serious authority figure, and hip with the cool references.

Automatic Zoom backgrounds turn my head and hair into a smooth blob, a bit like one of those Russian dolls. But the alternative is allowing my students to see the carnage of dirty dishes and empty wine glasses on the table behind me; or the back of my brother’s head where he is also conducting Zoom meetings at his desk in my tiny living room.

Admiral Blobhead bravely commits to keeping the background.

11:03am

My first customer of the day! Scheduled through calendly, Zoom meeting created automatically. Good job, me!

I work through her questions, even using the “remote control” option on Zoom to edit some code. I even successfully refrain from standing up to get more tea, because I am still wearing my pajamas, which are Spongebob boxers I got as a birthday present half my life ago.

I’m getting the hang of this, right?

11:12am

Another student is in the waiting room and has been waiting for 5 minutes. I am not even close to finished with Student A. Should I say something to Student B? How do you chat to the waiting room? Can I even type a chat message while still being focused on what Student A is currently showing me?

11:13am

Student B has logged off. Dammit.

11:15am

Student B has rescheduled himself for the 11:15-11:30 time slot.

I tell Student A to email me her code and I’ll have to take a look later, because I need to move on to my next student.

11:16am

I realize with horror that a different Zoom meeting is created for each Calendly appointment.

I am still in Zoom Meeting 1, and Student B is in Zoom Meeting 2 waiting.

11:17am

I am now in Zoom Meeting 2. Student B has gone back to Zoom Meeting 1.

11:18am

I am in Zoom Meeting 1. Student B is in Zoom Meeting 2.

I mentally place an Eldrich curse upon Zoom, Calendly, The Internet, students, myself, and coronavirus.

11:19am

Student B and I have convened in Zoom Meeting 2.

I help him understand some stuff. He seems to get it, and appreciates my help. The storm clouds of my grumpiness lift a bit.

11:30am - 12:00pm

I skillfully remember to switch to Zoom Meeting 3 for the next session.

I help a student.

I feel a bit better about life generally.

I realize it’s noon and I haven’t ingested anything but tea today.

12:00pm - 12:15pm

Leftover burritos while I respond to texts and chats from the morning. Ahhh, a break.

12:15pm

I realize I never finished helping Student A and she has been waiting an hour for my code edits.

12:15pm - 1:00pm

Editing Student A’s code, documenting changes, etc etc.

1:00pm - 1:15pm

I take a break sitting at my computer doing work, to sit at my computer checking Facebook. It’s a nice change of pace.

I argue about politics on Facebook, and immediately regret it.

1:20pm

I realize that I have double-scheduled Zoom games nights tonight. Dammit.

1:30pm

I answer some student questions on the class Discord. It makes me feel productive.

1:45pm

I post some helpful tips on the class website. It makes me feel productive.

1:45pm - 2:15pm

I get another request for help debugging code. I want to say no, because office hours are over and I have a to-do list a mile long.

But I imagine the student alone in her home, stuck and frustrated and tired of staring at her computer - much like me.

I debug her code.

2:15pm

I chat with my co-instructor. We realize maybe the lab this week was harder than we expected.

In a normal classroom, you catch that kind of thing pretty early. You’ll overhear discussions in class about how hard the homework is, or you’ll find yourself answering a lot of questions during in-class work time early in the week.

Online, we had no idea how stuck folks were until today’s onslaught of panicked messages.

We extend the lab deadline. It makes us feel productive, and also guilty.

2:30pm - 3:30pm

I come up with an idea of how to adjust the class to encourage more collaboration. I sink an hour into planning that out. I get nowhere.

3:30pm - 4:00pm

Research meeting with a student.

I realize that I have totally spaced on responding to some questions he sent me on Wednesday. I feel terrible.

Nonetheless, the productive meeting and face-to-face interaction feels more like “real life” than anything else I’ve done today.

4:00pm - 5:00pm

?????

Where do these blocks of time go?

I answered some emails, I think? I responded to some student questions on Discord, I think? I replied to some chats from friends, I think? I graded a few assignments, I think?

5:00pm

I start a blog post about online teaching.

5:07pm

I give up on my blog post about online teaching after failing to find the perfect gif to express being overwhelmed by technology tool options.

5:08pm

I am hungry, or possibly bored. I eat a nutritious and responsible snack of a LaCroix, 5 pringles, and a handful of Goldfish crackers that I dump on my work desk and eat in between typing.

5:30pm

It is 5:30. When did it become 5:30? What did I do with that half hour? What did I do with my day? What is time? What is the point of anything?

I need more tea.

5:32pm

I have caffeine and a renewed sense of resolve.

I make a list of the things that I thought I would accomplish today, but did not.

I restrict my list to work-related items, not being emotionally prepared to include things like “brush your teeth” or “go outside” or “fold the laundry that has been in the basket for a week” or “call American Airlines and stay on hold for 2 hours to get money back for four cancelled flights”.

  1. Grade assignments
  2. Take a look at student’s data
  3. Read student’s thesis manuscript
  4. Write paper draft
  5. Update R package
  6. Update other R package
  7. Update curriculum proposal
  8. Explore possible collaborator’s dataset to see if I want to work on it.
  9. Explore other possible collaborator’s dataset to see if I want to work on it.
  10. Create course materials for next week.

A small, optimistic part of me thinks I can finish all these things before my 8pm Zoom chat.

5:40pm - 5:45pm

I mentally berate myself for not having gotten any research work done this week.

I wonder how the heck people are managing with more than one class to think about.
I wonder if I should be putting less time into this class.
I wonder if the students would be okay if I did.

I wonder where my whole day went.

5:45pm - 7:00pm

I snap out of it.

I decide to figure out where my whole day went.

I write this blog post.

A small, optimistic part of me thinks I can still finish all the things before my 8pm Zoom chat.

A large, realistic part of me realizes I will be staying up until 2am or later, after my Zoom social hours, to finish at least items 1-3 on my to-do list.

7:00pm

I admit defeat, and I decide to go for a walk.