After a year of staring at little black squares on a screen representing the individuals in my class, I am finally going to meet them in a real room, face to face, when my institution goes back to in-person teaching next week (at the time of writing). The imagined interpersonal dynamics, built as they are on the occasional voice that speaks up, or the text and emojis in the chat box, can now give way to something more substantial and – dare I say it – more real.
And I am so ready.
I’m not complaining about the convenience of my 30-second commute from kitchen to desk to reach my class in time. But the hour it took me, in pre-pandemic times, to reach work, represented not a tedious traffic-ridden chore, but precious alone time or, as our cover stories elucidate, “me-time”. It was a time when I did not have to attend to notifications or calls, or be available to fulfill any of the numerous roles a woman typically plays – finder of misplaced items, fetcher of water, maker of meals…you get the picture. I could, instead, listen to the music of my choice, or a podcast episode I’d had to stop multiple times, or simply turn my thinking muscle off – as long as I still exercised intelligent driving choices!
I fully recognize this may not be the ideal way to carve out personal time; one needs much more than an hour in the quiet bubble of a car making its way through a city’s chaos. But you have to take what you get, and keep an eye out for the opportunities that come up, and gradually make room in your schedule and your surroundings for that R&R, rest and recreation. Several writers and philosophers have eloquently written in praise of “doing nothing”, of the value of withdrawal from regular activity, in order to reflect and recharge, and to some extent reclaim the core of one’s being.
During the pandemic, however, as work leaked into all hours of the day, and our phones constantly pinged with messages from students and sometimes colleagues, we may have found it difficult to retreat into that quiet space. Because we were in this always-on, always-online mode, disconnection became something of a dream. What were the consequences of this, for ourselves and for our work? The two stories on the cover theme of this issue of Teacher Plus explore these questions in different ways. While one looks at how teachers have coped with this blurring of boundaries between professional and personal time and space, the other considers the structural and social factors that have made it difficult for teachers to disconnect from work during this time.
How have you as a teacher, as a professional, managed these boundaries during the pandemic? We’d love to hear more stories!