Always On

Teachers have been told to work from home, to be available from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM to students. We’ve been told to be available through Zoom, Discord, Gmail, Google Classroom, and a number of other avenues ranging from the mundane (telephone) to the extravagant (Minecraft). And in all of this, a weird side effect has emerged in my life that I am not particularly excited for, which is that I always have to be online.

There are now no longer any excuses for missing an email. With the prospect of 110 students vying for your attention through digital devices, it could get intense. Back in meatspace, I was left alone during the day, because the regular process of teaching was obvious to anyone. I was in room 203, and if anyone wanted to make contact with me, I would be there. If not, they could send an email, and I would reach it when I could. Usually, for most of those emails, there was no need to respond.

I used to go to my computer and type to escape the world. Now I always have a tab open to the Johns Hopkins map.

And I am receiving messages from friends and family on Messenger and Discord.

For introverted people, this is tantamount to a nightmare. My typing device is now adulterated. It is like those scenes in the movies where only a few people are invited to the high school party while parents are out, and by the end of the second hour, the entire school showed up.

And we do not have any better excuse. Yes, I am technically at home, but what if I am working on a vlog? Or what if I am doing that Google Educator Certification I was also told to do?

In the real world, lines are drawn and routines are created. But in the digital space, there are hardly any barriers to when processes start and stop. Perhaps this is the way it should be done, and I am simply learning the TLDR version.

I reached a critical mass when I went for a walk outside. I did my due diligence to stay away from people, but it was an effort to remind me of the world that is right outside my doorstep. Online, the anxiety and the confusion and the exhaustion is already apparent.

But outside, the world continues at its pace, which was eerie and delightful all at once.

It can be tempting to place yourself in a position where availability is the same thing as safety. But what I learned is that if you were to unplug yourself for just a brief moment, not only do you bring a better self when you return, but that you also realize that the spheres of influence surrounding you will be fine without your input for at least a short time.

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