April 30, 2020

Those who can’t teach.

House (detail) #7:

WFH: DAY 31. 8.15 am: A communion. 9.00 am: I dispatched responses to incoming mail, downed a second cup of tea, and made ready for the day’s onslaught. This Thursday was, as ever, dedicated to the third-year painters. They’ve now received the PowerPoint template on which to submit their exhibition pieces and supporting work. The School has never attempted anything like this before. The experience will have none of the thrill and collegiality of setting-up a physical show — which is the highlight of the year, in my books. Nevertheless, it will provide as good a means of assessment. In the background of the tutorials, I sent out pastoral emails to students whose passage through this crisis has been particularly challenging.

‘Johnny had been working very hard, this morning. He deserved this’:

When students don’t connect with me online at their appointed time, I get concerned. Much can intervene in a person’s life from one week to another. On the whole, they’re a resilient bunch; but we all have our breaking point. Onwards. On the agenda today was a discussion of the arrangements for submitting the exhibition via PowerPoint, and the finalisation of the Research and Process in Practice dissertation (with those undertaking the Single-Honours Fine Art scheme).

2.00 pm: The afternoon shift began. The benefit of teaching from within the studio is that I can switch into practice-mode instantly when a student is either delayed or has to absent themselves. I long to be able to rehabilitate my MiniDisc player/recorder. This format is wonderful (far better in quality than the MP3-based iPod). The Walkman was made like a precision watch. Sony no longer support the accompanying software, rendering the digital-to-digital, send and receive, facility defunct. (Windows 98 was the last operating system capable of running it.)

3.00 pm: The last two tutorials of the day commenced. The students have little else to do other than work. So, they’ve been very productive. Perhaps, in future, we should confine them to their bedrooms for the whole of semester two, like monks and nuns in dormitory cells. After a whole day of staring-out students on a screen and talking above my normal volume level, my eyes were fried and my throat, parched.

4.30 pm: Into the rain, hail, and cold-wind blowing easterly, for a walk into town, returning via Plas Grug, the cemetery, and Llanbadarn Road.

7.00 pm: Teaching admin beckoned (again). In keeping with the usual term-time Thursday routine, I endeavoured to clear my desk in readiness for a return to studio work tomorrow.

Reflections on today’s engagements:

  • In times of crisis and anxiety, it’s not only doubly hard but also double necessary to think ahead. We can only experience life moment-by-moment; however, it makes sense to plan for it at least a week in advance.
  • A crisis can either make or break you. While we may not have control of the external circumstances in which we now live, we can try and discipline are minds and emotions by looking as much to the needs of others as to our own.
  • Motivation isn’t a consistent force. It waxes and wanes, particularly when we have to face a future over which there is now a question mark.
  • Having a wobbly is no shame. These are exceptional times. But make sure someone knows about it.

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