Yesterday was my first day of in person teaching since early March 2020. It was,… interesting.
I was looking forward to actually seeing my students in person but as I mentioned in my last post, i wasn't comfortable given Hunter's current COVID policy and Delta.
I'll be happier come mid October when 100% of students on campus will be vaccinated but at least for now, mask compliance is high. I only had to talk to one student in a hallway to remind him to put his mask back on and the only other non-masked person was a staff member (too far away for me to address) who had it under her nose.
In class distancing was not possible at all and I wasn't happy with that and this will certainly cause me stress for the next couple of months.
The positives? Actually meeting my students. I went through all of last year not seeing any of them in person and in fact have only met one face to face so far. That was just a couple of weeks ago at an event we both attended. That was great. Even with cameras on there's no comparison with what you can pick up and communicate through body language remote vs in person. Just not the same. A secondary positive were the low-tech tools. I haven't found a Zoom based whiteboard solution that I like. There's something to be said for a whiteboard that's up all period that can be modified not only by me but by other members of the class along with the projected screen.
What about the negatives? In addition to the general health questions, both physical and mental there were a few other things I noticed. Day one for me is always more lecture oriented. I have to give them a lot of material - policies and procedures, syllabus information, etc.. That's not to say that the students aren't involved at all but my first day classes are usually ones where I talk more and they talk less. When I talk, I like to roam the room. Move to different locations - get their eyes on different parts of the room with different students. It's a small thing but something that makes a difference. I couldn't comfortably do that. Similarly, when they were working, I wasn't comfortable with my traditional circulation routine - given that we don't know students vaccine status, I didn't want to get in close with them. This also reinforces my question from my last post about student collaboration and group work. These are things that actually work better remotely. Breakout rooms are flawed but they're something and you can't really do groups in a small classroom while keeping distant.
What's next? As I said at the top, I'll be more comfortable come mid October when we're all vaxxed. Until then, I'll take it a day at a time. I'll probably schedule some of our classes to be remote regardless of policy if I think that the remote tools make more sense for a particular session.
Gonna take it one class at a time.