During this lock – which is technically not a lock, although it might as well be, because I haven’t left my house in weeks – I spent a lot of time writing articles.
I don’t have to write to write, as I often do. Instead, I spent most of my time with schoolwork. I shouldn’t complain, they say, because virtual learning can make sense to me if it seems as if the rest of my world has snatched away under my feet. In a way, I suppose. But I certainly don’t want it.
I love school. I like an academic debate. I like to learn new skills. I love my teachers and my colleagues. I love the learning environment I live in. But living at home, working in their parents’ basement and trying to navigate a whole new virtual learning system was no reward.
I’ve never had such motivation in my life. I’m shocked at my inability to find the hard drive for my job. I couldn’t find the rhythm and routine to do all my homework as usual, and frankly, it’s not normal.
It’s natural to feel lethargic or unmotivated and isolate yourself at the same time. Rather than putting themselves and others under unrealistic pressure, teachers, students, peers, parents, and others should take these circumstances into account when creating curricula, lists of personal records, and seeking help.
It is not just a question of sitting and moping on the couch for the time being, but when assigning tasks – whether students, bosses, children or ourselves – take into account the inevitable fluctuations in motivation, physical and mental health problems and other obstacles to productivity. In short: Expect less, help as much as possible and count on flexibility.
According to Finian Buckley, Professor of Industrial and Organisational Psychology at the University of Dublin, the causes and effects of social exclusion on productivity are numerous.
Being unemployed, or at least not at our normal pace, can lead to a feeling of inefficiency. If we are unable to use our abilities, it can cool the mood, leading to a general feeling of sadness, Buckley said. For many people who have been deprived of their natural exercise, whether they exercise or work out in the gym, this means unusual lethargy and depressive energy levels that do not contribute to well-being.
For many students it is not so much that there is a lack of work, but that our normal rhythm is most likely interrupted. Access to the teachers was difficult, the teaching materials were completely replaced by screens and the classrooms were replaced by children’s rooms.
Students are not only confronted with unexpected and radical changes in their lives, but also with new challenges related to a radically different lifestyle.
According to Agustin Chavez of Swinburn University of Technology, isolation can increase the risk of depression, stress, lack of motivation and burnout. And the consequences aren’t just psychological. Exposure to isolation is similar to the effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, which statistically increases stress levels and the risk of inflammation and leads to a reduction in life expectancy. Isolation is what we should do, but it’s not easy.
Operating costs must take this pressure into account. Although the university offers students the possibility to put their final grades on the transcript, this option is currently not very useful for students. Still every week I am asked to write more than 20 pages, read and answer almost 200 pages, do two remote assignments, make or call or write, do online quizzes, give two digital group presentations, zoom in about 9.75 hours a week, and watch and write one hour of recorded lectures. For most of my activities, the pandemic has increased my workload. If I don’t do any of this, it will be difficult to succeed, even in the system that has pass/fail.
I don’t ask for credits for teaching materials that I haven’t finished, but for a more collective division of labour and to take into account all the factors that stand in the way of students succeeding. This can easily be achieved by extending deadlines, reducing the workload and offering one-off mandatory tasks as an additional loan.
It is not the first time that schools have to be closed in response to an unexpected natural disaster. For example, schools in New Orleans were completely destroyed and destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But 15 years later, we have access to new technologies that make the commercial approach more attractive than ever, despite the negative impact on everyone’s mental health.
The ability to teach virtually, to have material directly in the pupils’ hands – or on monitors – and to work with a generation that is technically literate suggests that maintaining school practice is an appropriate option. However, Zoom does not allow us to assess a student’s mental state. The fact that there is a possibility does not mean that we should not force the students to overburden themselves.
This pandemic threatens all aspects of our health. Not only are our lungs, heart and body at risk of being exposed to a deadly virus, but social isolation puts the greatest pressure on our mental state. It is essential that we carefully define the curriculum and expectations.
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