24 March 2021

Made it to the week before Easter

 The thing to look out for during the second semester is Easter. Once you have reached Easter, you've made it. The vast majority of teaching is done then, and that doesn't mean the work is done; there still is plenty of work to do, such as marking. But most of it you can do in your own rhythm. Last year, of course, reaching Easter wasn't like any other year; we were still coming to terms with the whole pandemic thing. But the year before that I felt like this as well!

This semester was a bit unusual. I had come out of the previous semester on sick leave. So I came into the new semester, still coming to terms with my new way of working using the voice recognition software, and facing a big pile of marking that was left over from the previous semester. And somewhere in February there was an addition to that; a colleague seemed to have forgot that two of our colleagues had applied for voluntary redundancy and would not be marking exam questions. Could I perhaps take over from one of them?

It was a bit nerve-racking to have to prepare for all my teaching in the semester while not working at full speed, and having that backlog as well. But I think I pulled it off. But there was one sprint to come; the week before Easter would be fairly mild, but the week before that was heavy. It started deceptively easy with Monday without contact hours. But on the Tuesday I had contact hours from 9 to 12 and from 1 to 5. And they weren't unusually demanding contact hours, but given that there were some many of them it was tiring anyway. On the Wednesday I had three hours of teaching in the morning and then two meetings in the afternoon. There was not enough time in between all these to go running, so I had to wait until the second meeting was over. That was after six! It wasn't a long run. On Thursday I had many hours of teaching, and I had to go to Bangor to get tested for the trip on Friday. I just managed to fit that in! But it was getting tiring by then. I sneaked down for a paracetamol before the last hour as I was getting a headache. And remember that an hour of teaching tends to mean you have to have an hour's worth of things to discuss ready. And all contact needs to be logged; which student attended what? And every session needs to be recorded, downloaded, uploaded into software that gives it captioning, and published online. And you have to deal with queries in between. So that means working the evenings too, which is, I'm afraid, standard. Even though it shouldn't be! So that week was demanding. I was happy to go into the field on Friday. And then after the fieldtrip I recorded my last two recorded lectures. Of the entire term! And thus of the entire academic year! That is a landmark.

So now I will have fewer contact hours. I do have to start marking now, and also making exams. Since the pandemic we have been allowed to upload the exam papers only a few months (or even weeks) before the actual exams. I love that! But it does mean I still have to do all of them.

There will be more meetings now; we get all the exam board meetings, and we also have to make decisions about the next academic year. I don't mind it, although I find them cumbersome; since my switch to voice control I struggle with events in which I have to talk online to people. It is difficult to use your voice both for communication with humans and with your computer. But I'll manage! And last year I thought that by the start of the new academic year, things may be back to normal. That clearly wasn't the case. But I don't learn, and I think that by the next academic year, some things will have gone back to normal. By then all adults should have been vaccinated; surely that makes a difference. We'll see! But either way; the hardest part of academic year 2020-2021 is now over!

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