Keeping home, and keeping house

I told Kevin last night, around 12:30 a.m., when were both still scrolling through news updates in bed (yes, terrible sleep hygiene, and Anand almost missed the bus this morning as a result, we have to stop doing that) that I was going to do ALL the backlogged home projects now, and the house was going to be SO CLEAN.

He said maybe not so clean if the kids were home too and we were spending some time homeschooling. I told him that their first lessons would be in keeping a house clean…

(Now that we’re both going to be teaching remotely, we’re seriously thinking about just keeping them home, even if the schools aren’t closed. Yet. If the parents who can easily do that do it, it will help, I think.)

#teachinginatimeofpandemic

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Simple Things You Can Do in a Time of Pandemic

(I’m going to repost this periodically, I think, and update it as I think of things.)

*****

Simple Things You Can Do in a Time of Pandemic
(a list for those feeling ineffectual, a work-in-progress)

1. WASH YOUR HANDS. Wash them frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Teach your children and other household members to do the same. Model it for others in public places, helping to make it a social norm. However this goes, that can only be helpful.

2. GO OUTSIDE. Go out into the fresh air if you can. Staying cooped up in your home can be a recipe for stress and breathing stale air doesn’t help. If you can’t go out, try opening a window or turning on a fan (which can disperse water droplets, lowering their concentration of virus). If you can go outside, and if you can garden, now is an excellent time; it’s good for your health in all sorts of ways, and your mental state too.

3. ISOLATE. Practice social distancing as possible. (I cancelled all my optional meetings, and am switching over as much as I can to Zoom.) Even if you’re not likely to get very sick, you can easily carry the disease to others.

4. RESTRUCTURE SOCIALIZING. Think about how isolation may be affecting you; if it’s making your mental state worse, consider options for socializing. Long phone calls with a friend? Asynchronous video game in between your work tasks? (I love Terraforming Mars for that.) Set up a computer screen with Zoom for you and a few friends or workmates or relatives, and just leave it running in the background as you go about the day, so you can chat on occasion as desired, ask a question, etc? Humans are pack animals, for the most part. Left alone, many of us tend to fret.

5. LAY IN REASONABLE STAPLES. If you can afford it, add a few staples to your groceries, aiming for two weeks’ worth of supplies on hand (if you have the space). Don’t hoard; others may need it far more urgently. Especially don’t hoard masks; medical personnel need them. If you’re not already doing grocery delivery, and it’s available to you, try it — one person doing food shopping for seven families and dropping groceries on porches is much less likely to spread contagion than those seven (or seventy) people going to the grocery store.

6. STAY INFORMED, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. Stay informed, but if social media is starting to stress you out, walk away. Turn off Facebook for a while, close the computer. The flood of information can be compelling, but it can also cause a lot of anxiety, and remember, as in any crisis, that a good percentage of early info will be wrong. Unless you have a responsibility to stay on the cutting edge of the info, you may be better served by waiting a day or two, letting others verify and process it, and then summarize the parts you actually need to know.

7. RECONSIDER TRAVEL. Think about whether you really need to take that upcoming trip, whether it’d be worse to be quarantined in that area, and be prepared to cancel travel at need. (For me, I have to go through a bit of a mental process of frustration, grief, and acceptance before I’m ready to do that, so might as well start early.)

8. CHECK IN. Elderly relatives, neighbors, co-workers, siblings, old friends — there are a lot of people feeling a lot of stress right now, and many may be feeling very isolated and even frightened. If you can check in with them — by phone, in person, online, whatever works — it can help. (It might help you feel better too.)

9. EAT HEALTHY. In stressful times, many of us turn to comfort food, but some of those options will just make you and your body feel worse if you do too much of it. (Did I binge salt-and-vinegar chips and ice cream last night? Yes I did.) To the extent that finances and time allow, try to eat as healthily as you can during a crisis (and feed others the same way). It may also help you feel a little more in control, since you’ll be proactively doing something to help the situation.

*****

#teachinginatimeofpandemic

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Going remote, and meeting online

For the record, I suspect a TON of faculty are probably feeling a lot of shock, inadequacy, tech fear, and performance anxiety right now, along with all the rest of the coronavirus stress of the general populace.

I know basically what I need to do to teach a couple remote classes, and I’ve been bizarrely avoidant about it all day. What if I say something dumb on a video and some student puts it on the internet and everyone laughs at me and realizes I’ve just been faking it in the classroom for the last twenty years? Etc. and so on. Imposter syndrome at full force.

I’ll get over it, and so will the other faculty, but students, parents, if you can be a little patient with us through this transition, it’d be appreciated. Most of us aren’t going to be GOOD at remote instruction right away, but we’ll do our best for the kids.

*****

The students in my postcolonial lit. class typically do an presentation where they talk about a historical national or international event and how it impacted themselves or their families; it’s a significant part of their grade for the course. I think we’re turning it into a presentation (which they can just hand into me, or put up for public consumption if they like, as PowerPoint, podcast, or video), where they do the same thing with Covid-19.

*****

UIC is going remote; we just got the word. It’s a little odd, because at least right now, they’re also telling students on campus that they can stay there and participate from there. Maybe because too many of our students don’t have good tech access at home?

But faculty will be teaching remotely for the rest of the semester [edit to note — the letter didn’t actually say rest of the semester, but I think that’s what it will be], and it’s a commuter campus, so many students live and work off-campus already.

Good to have clear word, finally. Glad they did the right thing.

*****

My writing workshop was supposed to have its monthly meet-up at my house tonight; we just decided (30 minutes before the meeting) to cancel, and reschedule to do it via Zoom.

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How can volunteers be of any use?

I have a question for nurses and doctors, or maybe for hospital administrators. Let’s postulate that some places (like Milan right now) will essentially be closed for business, and many people working remotely may find themselves with some free time and the desire to help. (Not commuting in to teach will certainly open up a few hours for me, and while initially, I’m scrambling to adapt my syllabus to remote learning, if this goes on for six months, or a year, or longer…)

When ICUs are overcrowded and running out of beds, will volunteers willing to be trained to help be of any use at all? (I have one friend who travels regularly to disaster zones to do relief work.)

Or will the chokepoint be more of a technical one — not an actual bed, I assume, which could be set up in other buildings at great need, but the equipment needed to monitor it? (Will fundraising help in that case, or would the equipment simply take too long to manufacture?)

How can the average person help you? I guess is what I’m asking.

(You may not know yet, but in case you do. I like to be prepared.)

#teachinginatimeofpandemic

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Simple Things You Can Do in a Time of Pandemic

Simple Things You Can Do in a Time of Pandemic
(a list for those feeling ineffectual, a work-in-progress)

1. WASH YOUR HANDS. Wash them frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Teach your children and other household members to do the same. Model it for others in public places, helping to make it a social norm. However this goes, that can only be helpful.

2. GO OUTSIDE. Go out into the fresh air if you can. Staying cooped up in your home can be a recipe for stress and breathing stale air doesn’t help. If you can’t go out, try opening a window or turning on a fan (which can disperse water droplets, lowering their concentration of virus). If you can go outside, and if you can garden, now is an excellent time; it’s good for your health in all sorts of ways, and your mental state too.

3. ISOLATE. Practice social distancing as possible. (I cancelled all my optional meetings, and am switching over as much as I can to Zoom.) Even if you’re not likely to get very sick, you can easily carry the disease to others.

4. RESTRUCTURE SOCIALIZING. Think about how isolation may be affecting you; if it’s making your mental state worse, consider options for socializing. Long phone calls with a friend? Asynchronous video game in between your work tasks? (I love Terraforming Mars for that.) Set up a computer screen with Zoom for you and a few friends or workmates or relatives, and just leave it running in the background as you go about the day, so you can chat on occasion as desired, ask a question, etc? Humans are pack animals, for the most part. Left alone, many of us tend to fret.

5. LAY IN REASONABLE STAPLES. If you can afford it, add a few staples to your groceries, aiming for two weeks’ worth of supplies on hand (if you have the space). Don’t hoard; others may need it far more urgently. Especially don’t hoard masks; medical personnel need them. If you’re not already doing grocery delivery, and it’s available to you, try it — one person doing food shopping for seven families and dropping groceries on porches is much less likely to spread contagion than those seven (or seventy) people going to the grocery store.

6. STAY INFORMED, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. Stay informed, but if social media is starting to stress you out, walk away. Turn off Facebook for a while, close the computer. The flood of information can be compelling, but it can also cause a lot of anxiety, and remember, as in any crisis, that a good percentage of early info will be wrong. Unless you have a responsibility to stay on the cutting edge of the info, you may be better served by waiting a day or two, letting others verify and process it, and then summarize the parts you actually need to know.

7. RECONSIDER TRAVEL. Think about whether you really need to take that upcoming trip, whether it’d be worse to be quarantined in that area, and be prepared to cancel travel at need. (For me, I have to go through a bit of a mental process of frustration, grief, and acceptance before I’m ready to do that, so might as well start early.)

8. CHECK IN. Elderly relatives, neighbors, co-workers, siblings, old friends — there are a lot of people feeling a lot of stress right now, and many may be feeling very isolated and even frightened. If you can check in with them — by phone, in person, online, whatever works — it can help. (It might help you feel better too.)

*****

(I’m going to close my computer soon, and go putter in my garden for a bit. If anyone wants to do an asynchronous game of Terraforming Mars with me in the next few days, holler.  (I probably don’t have the energy to teach, so do the tutorial first on your own, if you haven’t played before.))

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Spices and flowers

I stopped by Sugar Beet Co-op this afternoon to get spices that I can toast in preparation for my Feast event there this Friday. From 4-7, I’ll be at a counter showing people how to grind spices to make a curry powder mix, and just talking about spices and South Asian food in general.

I thought about cancelling it, but since it’ll be 1-2 people at a time, most likely, and we still have very low incidence in my area, it doesn’t seem like a high-risk activity for Covid-19 transmission.

Plus, there’s a certain sense that of all the things I can be doing right now that might be helpful, teaching people how to make delicious, healthy food at home is surely one of the most useful. I picked up some flowers too, to cheer my mood. The woman at checkout commented that she envied my organization of spices, that she wished she knew how to cook. I told her to come to my workshop — it’s free!

Spices and flowers. They help.

#serendibkitchen
#serendibteaching
#teachinginatimeofpandemic

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Harvard transitioning to virtual instruction

Harvard: “We will begin transitioning to virtual instruction for graduate and undergraduate classes. Our goal is to have this transition complete by Monday, March 23, which is the first day of scheduled classes following Spring Recess.

Students are asked not to return to campus after Spring Recess and to meet academic requirements remotely until further notice. Students who need to remain on campus will also receive instruction remotely and must prepare for severely limited on-campus activities and interactions. All graduate students will transition to remote work wherever possible. Schools will communicate more specific guidance and information, and we encourage everyone to review previous guidance about both international and domestic travel.

We are transitioning over the course of the next few days to non-essential gatherings of no more than 25 people. Please note this is a change from prior guidance.”

https://www.harvard.edu/covid-19-moving-classes-online-other-updates

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Flattening the curve

This is perhaps a dense question, but since I’m going to a conference in Florida in eight days, I’m going to go ahead and ask — would it be much less likely that people will catch coronavirus outside than in a closed conference room at a hotel, right? Less recirculated air, easier to space people out?

I’m wondering if for things like smaller readings, it might make sense to do what we do when the weather is nice on campus, and take some events outside?

*****

I would have never predicted that I’d be awake at 1:30 a.m., researching what goes into building ventilators.

*****

A doctor friend just told me that “Having one person shop for several families and then porch drop the goods is much safer than having everyone do their own shopping.” Which of course makes sense, but I hadn’t thought about it.

We already do most of our grocery shopping through delivery services, but it’s good to know that it doesn’t just save us time; it helps flatten the curve.

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A universal “gap year” might be coming

Amherst has just closed its campus for the semester. I’m seeing a lot of stress on various college parent pages, a lot of uncertainty, and while I am no expert (I’m not sure anyone really is right now), I think most of the colleges and universities will be closing campuses soon, switching to remote learning, from what I’ve been tracking.

The Spanish flu hit much harder in the cities that didn’t close their schools. I’m sure everyone at higher levels is taking that, along with the undoubtedly far higher rates of coronavirus in the US. than we currently know about, given the abysmal rollout of testing kits and general presidential denialism, and drawing the same conclusions I am.

(Italy has just banned weddings for the duration — you can get married with an officiant and a witness, but that’s it. Your guests can watch it streamed.)

I would expect many colleges to close soon, and plan accordingly. Some parents I see are telling their kids to pack what they can easily carry, and they’ll deal with collecting the rest when they can.

In terms of educational disruption — I saw one comment that what’s happening in Japan and elsewhere may lead to our all treating this as a universal “gap year.” We’re going to be scrambling in academia to think through what is the best way to foster student learning in this environment, and minimize the consequences for young adults and their families.

I’m sorry.

This spreadsheet is tracking colleges and university closures: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19wJZekxpewDQmApULkvZRBpBwcnd5gZlZF2SEU2WQD8/htmlview

#teachinginatimeofpandemic
#serendibteaching

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Possible school and campus closures

One thing that frustrates me about universities and colleges that don’t close their campuses, is that administrators are likely looking to the public schools for a cue, in a cover-your-ass type move. But that is exactly wrong. However hard it will be to close college campuses and switch to remote learning, it is FAR harder for public schools to close, with a host of consequences for children and working parents.

“Officials in NYC said they would close public schools only as last resort, in part because about 114,000 students in school system are homeless and may have nowhere else to get hot meals, medical care, or even a place to wash their dirty laundry.”

This country.

#teachinginatimeofpandemic
#serendibteaching

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