Maybe next year

March 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has shocked the world, and in Sweden, schools are beginning to move from the physical classrooms to digital learning environments. I am told to cancel all physical meetings at work, and to only schedule online teaching with my university students. Keep an open mind, we’re told – find new solutions, and do what you can to make things work. I start working from home; in my kitchen, in my living room, in our spare bedroom. The ironing board is put to use as a temporary desk, and my coffee machine is working double shifts to help me fill up on caffeine. My youngest daughter celebrates her 13th birthday with us at home, with Morfar (Grandad) on FaceTime. Maybe in the summer, we say. Maybe in the summer we can meet up in real life, and then we’ll have a proper celebration.

March 2021. We are locally at an all-time-high with Covid-19 statistics, and I haven’t been in my office in a year. We keep applying an open mind. New tools are used, and I’ve become somehwat of a Zoom expert. My screen time must have increased by 1,000% since just over a year ago. My coffee machine is as exhausted as I am. We celebrate my youngest daughter’s 14th birthday at home, with Morfar on FaceTime, again. Well, at least next year, we say. Next year we must have had vaccinations, and it should be safe to have a proper celebration. My 16-year-old worries about what her graduation from year 9 will be like in the spring. It’s supposed to be a milestone, and she wants to do something special with her class before they say goodbye to each other. But as it is, they barely meet at all. Hybrid teaching means every other week at school, and every other week at home. We are struggling to find space. All my work is done from home. When my 14-year-old has had cold symptoms, she has had to do school work from home too, and if it’s a week when my 16-year-old has distance learning, she is also here. My husband works with the local ambulance helicopters, so if anyone there has any kind of symptoms, they are have to stay at home too. That means, for us, sometimes finding space at home for three or four people to work online, listening to people, having conversations in different parts of our home. It means having enough Internet connection to keep us all online. Lunches and kitchen visits have to be coordinated as someone has to use the kitchen as an office. My coffee machine is confused. Too much noise. It seems overworked. Well, next year, we say. Surely. Next year we have to be back to some kind of normal, whatever that is. Right?

I miss my colleagues. I miss the buzz. I miss the energy I get from meeting students and my peer, and eye contact. Online, there is no eye contact, only faces. And voices. I’m sure the coffee machine at work feels as lonely as me.

March 2022. Well, who knows? We’ll keep applying an open mind, of course. We keep finding new solutions. We make things work. I hope to be back in my office at some point in 2022 at least, safely. I hope to be able to celebrate my youngest daughter’s 15th birthday with extended family, and I hope that my teenage daughters will be able to spend time with classmates and friends, not just online but in real life. That is perhaps more important to them than to me. This pandemic is affecting us all, and while we all try to make the most of our time at home, I think it is OK to voice frustration, whether it is through conversations or blogging, because we all have frustration, no doubt.

This pandemic sucks, as one of my daughters recently said. We are getting tired of saying the same thing over and over again, but I’ll end with those words anyway.

Maybe next year. Hopefully next year.

2 comments

  1. The idea of becoming an expert unexpectedly, for sure not asked beforehand or along the way, changes our lives. It changes the balance within an educational institution, as it does at home. It has to be negotiated. But will it return to normal, or will this normal be a new one, where we are expected to flip from context to context without much reflection, without time to recover and think things through? I cannot stop thinking about Joseph Schumpeter’s developmental term “creative destruction”, where old structures are challenged and eventually changed. I don’t know if the academic setting as we are used to will withstand the force of both new public management principles and new technologies altering the idea of productivity in education. The process takes usually a very long time, unless there is a chock, like a pandemic. Perhaps my thoughts are not spot on, but we will see, maybe next year. Until then it is to work from the kitchen, living room, or somewhere else where there is space.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.