A little quieter
Yesterday marked the end of one of my taught classes. I had online face to face meetings with a dozen masters students, to supplement their written work. I haven’t actually had conversations with so many people on one day in – well months. After that day of meetings and typing was done, I was exhausted, and I thought.
I miss them, now, and I anticipate missing them in the weeks to come.
After teaching ends there is normally a lull. A quiet descends. ‘It’ doesn’t end – there is an avalanche of marking, reading individual essays and providing useful comments, which consumes my time, but the seeing people ends.
In these past few months, by necessity, there has been less and less seeing of people. Before it went like this: Lots of people know me, lots of people see me, I smile at lots of people, and greet them, but few stop to talk. Usually I stop them, and the most useful meetings happen in those few words exchanged in a moment between things. Now, all of the opportunities for those moments have evaporated. Not even into the ether, the opportunity was never even born. That is a change. As far as I can see, which is to the screen before me, that change has not really been acknowledged.
I wonder if other people notice?
I have heard a lot of the success of online learning, and yes, that transition has gone well – in terms of access, delivery, and continuity, but there is a lot of in-between that feeds an environment, beside the scheduled sessions or meetings. Even in the scheduled events, in the system my work uses, you cannot ‘see’ everyone in the meeting even if you wanted to. There is a view of 4, and they are chosen simply by the prominence of volume (and there’s no guarantee the speaker will have a video feed on- either because of their bandwidth capacity or through choice). I am a pretty perceptive person and despite being quiet in many situations, there are cues all around. Now, with this sensory deprivation, I’ll admit to struggling with the feeling of imposed separation. I long for that contact, but unlike passing in the hallway, which could either be or appear to be haphazard, reaching out now has to be deliberate.
Half of those MA students of mine are always online students because they live across the globe, and when online is all we have, I do feel connected to them, because they engage and we actively supplement the sessions with email, forums, video, recordings… we do reach out and it is deliberate.
As for the day to day, I still have to do things, produce documents, respond, but there are no smiles, nods, gestures of any sort. I miss the humanity of the in-between. I’m working on learning how to manage the missing cues of interaction.
So as quiet descends, I’m working on finding the good by recharging, reflecting, and taking the time to be aware – of lots.