After months of isolating I was thrown into the classroom with other people with no real screening process for faculty or students. It made me rightfully anxious. The anxiety of returning to the classroom is not unique to my situation. Many teachers and educators are facing this dilemma right now. I am, however, beyond grateful to have the jobs I have. So, before the semester started, I purchased the supplies needed to teach F2F (face to face–it’s the new lingo): face shield, masks, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and a forehead thermometer. I set up strict protocols for my classroom and teaching studio, donned my mask, faceshield, armed myself with hand sanitizer and reported for duty.
Day 1 of F2F lecturing and teaching included giving a lecture via zoom with a school provided webcam that made me look like I was filming the Blair Witch Project. I had to use a classroom computer that doesn’t work seamlessly with powerpoint presentations and has a mouse with a mind of its own. Meanwhile, as I struggled with the technological disadvantages, I also gave the lecture (simultaneously) in person while wearing high heels, a face shield, and a mask. It was quite the scene.
The Masked Plight of a Low Talker
If you know me personally, you know I’m a low talker. (Low talker: “One who’s volume of conversation is so low that you can barely hear them” —https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php . This term is from Seinfeld).
Naturally, given my low talker status, the addition of a shield and a mask made it so I basically needed to yell. I shouted out a lecture entitled “What is Music” for an hour and fifteen minutes. Thinking back on it now, it was hilarious, but I’m not sure my students thought so.
F2F Viola Lessons
Following the lecture, I mozied down to my office and taught F2F lessons for the rest of the day.
Now…I have not played viola in the same room as another violist since MARCH. So, the opportunity to teach lessons and be able to play with my students was amazing. It felt so good to be able to demonstrate something, help with intonation, and hear their sound in the same room. It was nourishment for my soul. Even though my face shield kept fogging up and I could barely tune my instrument with it on, I realized how much I miss the in person component of making music and teaching.
The experience didn’t last long. By the third week of school, our status elevated to level 2, meaning the virus was starting to spread. The cases doubled from the time the dorms opened to the 3rd Monday of the semester. One of the mitigation tactics of level two is to reduce F2F learning and go down to 25% capacity. It is a tough situation and one that requires vigilance from everyone on campus.
Hoping for the best, planning for the worst
To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about all of it. I’m conflicted. I like seeing my students in person. I enjoy the act of teaching a class in person, but until it is truly safe to do so, or there are reasonable safety parameters in place, all I can do is make prudent choices and hope for the best. Luckily, for me and for my students, I have a nice camera and computer to do zoom lessons and lectures when not in a classroom. I am very curious to see how this semester unfolds and how we move forward from here.