Monday, April 27, 2020

Teaching During the Wuhan Virus

We had our spring break in the first week of March. My friend in Ohio was already going to start remote/online teaching. Another friend mentioned that her daughter was coming home on 16th March from her university in Missouri after they decided to go online for the rest of the semester. I was shocked! 

Nothing was going on for us yet at Palm Beach State College. We went back to college after spring break and I was a bit concerned about being there. I took tissue to the class and told my students that they were welcome to sit far away from each other if they wanted (they did not). Classes and labs went on as usual. On Thursday I mentioned to one of my classes that if we do go online then it will be class as usual for us.  And then on Friday we got the email saying that classes are suspended for the next week and we will be going remote/online for the rest of the semester, so we have to prepare our courses for it. 

This was very hastily done. We were to report to college on Monday as usual, but no classes. We had a faculty meeting with our Associate Dean where he answered questions. We all decided as a chemistry department to skip one lab, that was missed during the suspended week, and do videos or dry lab for the next two. We all had only three labs left. After collecting all my notes etc. that day, I left. 

Next day I came back to record two organic labs, one for 1 and one for 2. One of our lab techs helped to record. It felt just strange to be there doing this with the virus hanging around. It took him about a week to send it to me and then I worked on it and uploaded it for my students. They were good in watching it and giving me a good report on it.  Once the labs were over, I was feeling a lot better.  I had to make a final exam for my organic 1 lab. It was interesting to make it on Blackboard. It took me a bit but I think I was able to do a good job on it. And so did my students, they did well on it.

I spent the week of 16th March working on changing the dates for the work due and making new calendars. I had done a lot of work already on making all my lectures online on YouTube, so I did not have to worry about that. I had to sign up for some online testing for my organic because I knew that was going to be hard to test on Blackboard (our learning software). We all had to learn how to use Collaborate, which is to teach a class in synchronous manner. It is a good software.

The college messed up a bit on this. They knew this was coming and could have warned us earlier to get ready so we don’t lose that one week. But I don’t know what they were thinking! Because of their lack of timely action, we lost a week and we had to work extra hard one week to get things ready for the rest of the semester. And then within the next week the campus was shut down. The technology we ordered was put on hold without telling us for more than a week. That was stupid. I had to order a laptop in order to be able to teach my classes. I just cannot do without writing in my classes. Other professors may teach using power points but I don’t. 

The students were very good in adapting the new method of learning and I am grateful for that. There were some minor cheating incidents, which was kind of expected.  Other than that, students were participating more actively in class and came to class more and more on time. Although there were some that I lost due to them having kids at home and their time was divided. 

I will be glad when this semester is done in the next couple weeks. I am sure the students are also just waiting for this to be done. 

The couple good things that came out of this were one, I got to learn some new technology in Blackboard. I got a new laptop; a Microsoft Surface Pro and I am really enjoying using it. The second thing that is really working out is that I finally have a schedule that I like. I go for my exercise in the morning, teach, take a break and teach again and then I am free! It's nice that I am free after 2 pm. Although I still have work to do but I can do it at my own time.

I am very much a homebody and I love where I live so it is not a big problem for me to be working from home. Maybe I am even liking it. Although I don’t think it is good in the long term.

Six Weeks of Wuhan Virus

It has been a strange 6 weeks. I started hearing about the virus in February on NPR when they were reporting that Wuhan in China, was on lockdown. Travel to and from China was still going on. At that time, I did not realize how contagious the virus was. I just thought that Wuhan was on lockdown to stop the spread – like flu. It turns out this Wuhan virus has upended the whole world! 

China did not stop any flights. A number of countries flew their citizens out of Wuhan. I remember a Nigerian student saying Nigeria was not flying him home, saying that Wuhan had better way to deal with and treat the virus than Nigeria. Nigeria was probably a little smart in not getting infected citizens back into their country. But a number of other countries still had people traveling to China and back. The spread was inevitable. How much, was not anticipated.

After China, it was Italy that went in lockdown in March. By that time, the virus was in news a lot in USA, but no measures were being taken. I went out for lunch on 6 March and then 15 March with friends. Both times it felt weird to be eating out, but I was okay since there had been no cases in Florida. I was hearing about cases in Washington State. Spain was hit hard next.

I started calling and emailing my friends in key places to see how they were doing. They were okay, all at home. I knew the virus was coming here but I did not realize how much it would impact our daily life.

Once the teaching/working from home began on the 16th of March, reality sunk in that we would not have a normal life. Florida did not have anything other than social distancing recommendations. Spring breakers were still coming to Florida. But I took that week of 16th March as the last one of freedom and went shopping a bit, and did some major groceries and vitamin shopping. Some essential items were hard to find like toilet paper, bleach and sanitizers…and for some reason, eggs. Luckily I did not really need of those things. I got my alcohol from the lab and was all set.

It has now been 6 weeks of staying home. Teaching has been going on. I commend the students for transitioning into the online system and coming to classes. 

I have been trying to discipline myself in more than one way. I started going for morning walks….every morning so I could get some exercise. Our community closed the gym and pool also at this time. So morning walks is the only excercise I count on. I started eating a little more healthy. Instead of snacking on junk food, now I snack on vegetables and fruits. Intermittent fasting is becoming normal for me now. I eat only between 9 and 5. I feel if I don’t do all these things, I will become really unhealthy sitting at home all the time. 

I watch little news and all my comedy shows and movies.  People are saying they are getting bored and watching a lot of TV, and I wonder how?? I don’t have time to get bored. Between teaching and preparing for summer classes, I don’t have much time during the week. I try to keep weekends free for relaxing.

I am talking a lot more on the phone now to my extended family and a lot of friends. It has been nice. Some days go by with just being silent all days, which are not different than what I used to have before – hehe.

Going out once a week for vegetables and milk is a little strange now. We have to wear masks (as of two weeks ago) and now I always carry hand sanitizer, which I never bothered with before. It is amazing to me that people in Florida do not maintain a good distance and they don’t care about wearing masks also. Some shops have restricted enterance based on wearing masks or how many people are inside, but other than that, things seem to be normal. Yeah, we cannot eat out or go shopping, some parks are closed but its not India where there is a complete lockdown. 

I got my driveway painted (well my HOA wanted that…I did not care). I have made my office room a much more inhabitable room. I like all the pictures I put on the walls. Otherwise my home is quite set, I don’t really need much work and may God keep it that way.

Sometimes I feel like going out to eat, or ordering pizza, but I let that thought pass since I have always believed in “better safe than sorry”. I can always eat out next year. 

This experience will stay with me for my lifetime. Very unusual.