Thoughts of Return

So here I am sitting at home supervising my first online repeat examination supplemental assessment. I’ve only had a couple of minor queries so I’ve been able to get on with other things, among which I noticed that according to the news Universities and Colleges in Ireland have announced that

The rapid progress in the Covid vaccination programme has injected a new level of confidence about maximising the return to higher education, and preparations are at an advanced stage.

That’s great. Presumably at some point the University authorities will communicate these preparations which are at an advanced stage to the staff who will have to implement them. I would have thought we might get to hear about them before they are presented to the media, but perhaps the details for Maynooth haven’t been worked out yet. In which case they’re not really advanced. Or perhaps the plan will be what it has been throughout the pandemic: leave everything to Heads of Department to sort out.

The press release is here by the way. What it contains is rather vague but it does contain some specific things about staggered start and end times for lectures and contraflow into and out of buildings, so if we’re going to do that we’ll have to know what it involves. I am mindful however of the debacle last year when we made elaborate plans that then had to be ditched when the Covid-19 situation deteriorated. After getting my fingers burned that way last year I’m going to wait until the last possible moment before making concrete plans.

While I’m very happy about the prospect of returning to campus I’ve suddenly realized my positive feelings are tempered with a strange and unfamiliar sense of anxiety. The first teaching sessions of next academic year are in the week beginning September 20th. At that point it will have been 18 months since I last stood up in front of a full lecture theatre. It will be a strange experience after such a long period during which I’ve been doing my teaching by talking into a camera. Will I be able to remember how to do it? I think I’ll be quite nervous, actually. I don’t normally get nervous when giving lectures but already feel it. Perhaps it will pass.

Another thing that occurred to me is that as well as the brand new intake I will have students in my second year whose faces I’ve never seen!

Anyway, all that’s for next month. For the time being it’s back to the repeat examinations. While I’ve been typing this, two have been submitted….

One Response to “Thoughts of Return”

  1. 2021 is that strange year where we are caught between normality and a crisis. I don’t believe 2022 will bring back what used to be called “normal”, it will be another world we’ll emerge into. But we’ll have to unlearn certain behaviours. For instance, In Flanders where I live, 76 % of the population has had at least one shot, 65 % have had two, and two thirds of the doses injected were Pfizer. Still, I don’t know when I’ll feel it’s safe to go out in town without wearing a mask. Working in a clinic, I’ve gotten so used to wearing those things, I could sleep with one without noticing. I’ve heard of people who worked the Covid wards and now don’t feel safe in a non-covid envrionment – the discipline of strict procedure gave a sense of security that was absent everywhere else. I know colleagues who, during the first wave, abstained from relations with their partner out of fear of contagion.At some point, we’ll have to think things through, and make courageous decisions. Or what once saved our lives may still ruin them. We’ll have to face up to the fact that, yes, for all practical purposes, incredible as it feels, it’s over. And we’re still here.

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