Plate Spinning: a reflection on the past 13 months

It’s been a hard year and to be honest and personal it’s been a mixed year of anxiety and pride. I think my early pandemic optimism (or naivety) has been eroded over time via 5pm briefings, attention grabbing headline, confusion, politicisation of everything and anything. On sunday 8th March 2020 I sat in a packed Murrayfield watching Scotland beat France in the 6 nations. The sound, the buzz the crowd now seem so distant and alien, I wonder how I will react the first time I am back in a crowd of people flowing around the streets and stadiums, people shouting, singing, coughing, laughing, people everywhere!

I miss people, not that I am happy  smiley approach anyone for a chat person (I am usually a go bright red and get paranoid person) however being in a room with noise, seeing people react, watching people enjoy the day, having random chats and laughing together at shared experiences ….and that’s just with strangers! imagine the joys of sitting in the office,  not having to book time formally to talk informally about anything and everything, sitting in a coffee shop to discuss project status and next steps, walking through the city to the train station and being surprised that your train is on time and quiet (#scotfail).

It’s odd to think how things have changed and how people have reacted. It has been inspiring but also stressful. I was an avid tweeter before the pandemic and found the content posted by others insightful, for the first few months I would still read, comment and post however I felt that with my workspace now being in the house and the ease of access to work that professional and personal time were being blurred and I wasn’t switching off. 

This may have been due to the lack of things we were able to do based on national or regional restrictions however I decided post summer to take a step back and ring fence time where we would all go somewhere with no phones and try to enjoy that time (or what my house calls its digi-free time). Sounds crazy however the last year has felt like I have been always planning ahead, predicting circumstances,  reviewing data to try and create some hope for myself and clarify the situation in my head (plate spinning).  This might go up or down, they may say this can open or not, they say wear this or not and take this but not that! So reducing my social media presence has helped stop read article at 8pm, comment on a discussion amongst colleagues when cooking dinner or scroll through the feed at 7am.

I also found my enthusiasm for blogging starting to flag. I honestly blog for myself to reflect and think about what I am currently working on. If someone reads it, great, if they don’t great, I reflect on what I am thinking, distill my thoughts into something semi-sane based on what I understand at that time! It’s not scripture, it may be wrong but it’s just me thinking, reflecting, contemplating and trying to make sense of it.

My headscape hasn’t been able to stop and reflect on my professional life however I feel like now I am able to start reflecting again and even start to think ahead. Sounds odd however the last year feels like a pause, plates were spinning and lots of frantic leaping and twirling was needed to maintain the spin whilst setting up new plates and watching other plates crash to the ground. But the plate spinning was short term, an intermission act to maintain interest and get us from Act 1 to Act 2. I sense Act 2 is about to begin and we can look ahead albeit with one foot firmly embedded in a digital reality which has moved from an peripheral teaching supporting concept adopted by some, ignored by others to a core crucial set of tools to ensure the delivery of teaching for all. 

The impact the pandemic has had on teaching will be picked over in the coming months and years as we slowly transition from one reality to an other and its this thought that has made we write this blog 🙂

Learning tool adoption prior to the pandemic wasn’t optional as the institution has a VLE however the use of the platform and any other tools was optional and could be designed and utilised  by schools and academics as they desired. This allowed some academic freedom to teach in their own style however with the pandemic has the been stifled, standardised with digital platforms creating cookie cutter learning experiences transforming academics and students into lemmings? Had the VLE already created mass cookie cutter courses were course reviews are large operations that now need to consider the digital platforms they will be hosted on and whether these platforms can support their ideas.

Like I say some plates are starting to fall however a lot are now spinning for themselves. The frantic and stressful nature of learning to spin plates has gone the anticipation of breaking work plates in the office is tantalisingly close and the idea of analysing the plates broken or cracked in the pandemic will be fascinating. 

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