Disruption is Normal
My seven-year-old captured this picture after one of my department meetings
How has your life changed in the last month? I hope that you have not joined the stay at home protests and are doing your best to take care of your health. From my experiences as a college educator and parent, this post will share some of the problems I am experiencing and the solutions that can help you to juggle multiple roles while working from home.
Working from home with expectations to also homeschool your children is NO JOKE! I am learning more than ever about how much attention my children need to increase their chances of academic success. Managing professional and personal responsibilities demands a flexible schedule.
Here on the Caribbean island of Antigua and Barbuda, we have a 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM window to leave our property for essential services and exercise. Medical emergencies are the only exceptions to the curfew.
My work and home environments have forced me to adjust. University department meetings take place once a week on the Microsoft Teams platform. The school of my three children is using the Google Classroom platform to send assignments; my wife and I are working together to teach the curriculum and keep up with the homework.
The coronavirus has disrupted the normal. This process of adjusting from in-person instructor-led classes to virtual classrooms is not easy. Unforeseen obstacles have forced teachers and students to stretch their resources to gain some control of the learning activities.
Pomona College, located in Claremont, California, changed its grading policy for this semester. Faculty members adopted a "universal pass/no record pandemic/ incomplete grading policy,” to accommodate students with inadequate resources to fulfill online course requirements. Under this policy, professors can choose not to submit the traditional letter grades for students enrolled in their courses. Instead of an “A, B, C, D, or E” appearing on the Spring semester 2020 grade reports, some students may receive a universal pass, no record pandemic, or incomplete on their transcripts.
According to this report, the policy intends to take into consideration the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 and provide students with the opportunity to retake classes in the Fall semester without penalty. The Pomona college grading policy is controversial because some believe it penalizes the students with adequate resources to meet the requirements for traditional grade marks.
The university where I am employed also modified the grading policy. It does not provide a universal pass or incomplete option similar to Pomona college, but it does attempt to accommodate students with limited resources during this difficult time. Eight percentage points lower the threshold to pass this semester.
Students need flexible academic standards this term. My inbox has emails from students about topics that range from weak internet connections to losing multiple family members.
The students I work with come from international communities. While many claim the United States or Canada as home, many of our aspiring medical doctors derive from other Caribbean islands, African countries, and Latin America. Everyone does not have access to the same internet resources at home.
My department’s initial plan was to offer synchronous or live virtual classes via the Microsoft Teams platform. We prepared PowerPoint presentations and scripts to deliver online content. After a meeting with the university administration and curriculum committee, we switched to an asynchronous approach that included uploading pre-recorded lectures and reformatted quizzes.
We thought we had a well-conceived plan. Then, we received feedback from the students. While many of the students enjoyed the content, some complained about their home wi-fi connections and feeling overwhelmed with the additional requirements of online education.
On some days, my work feels like it doesn't stop. Except for writing projects, I used to restrict my office hours to 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. In a remote environment, my hours range from the early mornings to late evenings.
I often begin work tasks, and then my children need a snack. After ten minutes, work resumes, and then another fifteen minutes later, I am mediating an argument over the use of our family's tablet. Disruptions have become my new normal.
See this video post on Facebook for a glimpse of what doing academic work and training capoeira from home looks like with my three small children.
One of the solutions that I use is to keep an open notebook near my computer. This notebook enables me to jot down ideas whenever my parent duties interfere with my workflow. The brief notes I write, help me to return to where I left off after feeding one of my children, helping with a school assignment, or breaking up a disagreement.
In the field of instructional design, cognitive learning theory helps to design and develop curriculum. This theory explores a systemic approach to building the mental capacity of students to absorb information and transfer it to their environments. It emphasizes using what students know to improve teaching and learning.
We can also use cognitive learning theory to help us think about working from home.
When it comes to working and parenting at home, we must use what we understand about our jobs and our families to get things done. For example, we know that some tasks require our undivided attention. To meet focus intensive obligations, you must wake up early, divide parenting duties with a partner if possible, or stay up late to avoid distractions and produce quality work. Replying to email messages may be one of the things that you can do in between sipping a cup of coffee and teaching a concept to your child.
In this remote learning environment with parenting duties abound, you must transform your work into small manageable chunks throughout your day.
If you have children, you need to accept that the 9-5 work shift will not look like it does in the office. Similar to how universities are modifying their evaluation standards, you may need to adjust how you assess your productivity. Some days will be better than others.
If you are accustomed to reviewing progress on projects at the end of each day, shift to reevaluating after two days or once a week. When you create your schedule, think about the internal and external forces that can impact your responsibilities. You may need to raise or lower your standards to enable success during this COVID-19 era.
This week, I want to encourage you to wake up early or stay up late on one day of the week to make progress on one project. Do not sacrifice your health; please get your body's required amount of sleep, and make the uncomfortable shift to an early morning or late evening. Although you may not be able to go to a physical office, your home environment does not need to decrease productivity.
Practice self-compassion and realize that your work will look different during this season. Do your best while complying with state, local government, or country recommendations that may ask you to stay home. We are not superhuman and mistakes will happen when attempting to manage our time.
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