Role Strain During COVID-19

How are you balancing your new work/family reality?

March 25, 2020

My house now contains four remote-learning college students. Two daughters. A boyfriend. And a friend with nowhere else to live. Two seniors. A junior. And a sophomore.

My job is 100 percent collaborating with an astoundingly brilliant and mission-driven group of faculty and staff to transition to 100 percent remote learning.

Like most of you, my home life and my work life have combined. We are all working and studying (and teaching) from home.

Watching my college-age kids (and plus-ones) navigate their own shift from residential to remote learning has been hugely helpful in my job. Some things I’m learning by watching my kids:

  • Whatever their professors and school can do to lower stress levels is hugely helpful in learning.
  • It is impossible to overcommunicate with students, but that communication needs to be brief and conversational.
  • Simplicity, consistency and flexibility in how remote classes are taught are vital for student success.

It is extra living with four college students while working exclusively from home. The role strain that I feel as a parent and a higher ed person is nothing, however, compared to what all of you who have school-age and younger kids must feel.

How are you managing to do your job as a professor or staff member while simultaneously homeschooling your children?

If your kids are pre-school age, how are you managing to care for them while also doing everything else on your to-do list?

Preparing remote courses is hugely time- and energy-intensive. Successfully teaching a remote course requires a commitment to maintaining an asynchronous and synchronous presence, both of which are tremendously time-consuming.

The work that faculty and staff are engaged in to engage and support a remote student population is not work that scales particularly well. So much of a quality remote learning experience depends on building and maintaining personal relationships with learners. Professors are one group of educators who work directly with students. So are all the people who work on the student affairs side of the educational mission.

How are you balancing the intensive needs for your attention from students and colleagues with the time and attention requirements of your family?

Now we are only a couple weeks into all of our pivots to COVID-19-necessitated remote teaching and remote work. We have not yet found our equilibrium.

At some point, what started as an emergency shift will begin to be our new normal. We will settle down for however long this remote teaching and remote work marathon will be, transitioning from sprinting to a more sustainable pace.

When that transition comes to a more sustainable pace, I cannot tell. Do you have any ideas?

How are you managing the role strains that you are experiencing during COVID-19?


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