Everything is NOT just fine

I’ve read a lot of cheery tweets that said something like,

Young girl frowning in disapproval

“Buffy, Biff and I are isolated at home with our terrier, Boo. Here’s a picture. Isn’t he cute? We played card games, then I baked this three-course meal I saw on Pinterest. Biff is taking this time to finally become proficient in Mandarin with a course he is taking online.”

Seriously, what is WRONG with you people?

Now, those are the people we all want to slap, but there is another group that is more worrying. If working remotely is your usual mode, you are still drawing a paycheck and no one in your family is seriously ill, you may feel as if you should be going about life as usual.

I was in that group. After all, I have an office in my house where I usually work when I’m not traveling. My husband works upstairs. I’ve taught online for years. So, I’m in the same place, doing the same thing. Other people have real problems. Everything is fine.

Everything is NOT fine

A very sensible tweet I read said something like,

If you haven’t eliminated at least one student assignment, you are doing it wrong. Students are having to do their classes on line, have lost jobs, have jobs for which demand has skyrocketed overnight, have children or siblings at home interrupting them, have to share a computer, don’t have Internet access. They can’t go to the beach or the gym to de-stress. Some are home with abusive parents or partners. Expecting the same level of work is clueless.

I thought, “Well, yeah, I am sure that is true for students who are living in poverty, who are in elementary or middle school, but I teach graduate students who are professionals.”

Then … I got the assignments that were due after everything began locking down. Now, I should preface this by saying I have taught the same course for the same university for seven years. Over the past couple of years, the admission requirements for the program have been tightened, so the average student is more prepared.

My highly qualified graduate students made mistakes that I know they would not normally make

How do I know this? Before Coronavirus was an every day word, their work was as good or better than the average class. As the country began to shut down, they began to make mistakes at a far higher rate than my previous classes. These were particularly more common on problems that required detailed attention. For example, looking at the data to see that the subject numbers were all duplicated and then identifying this as a problem that requires repeated measures analysis.

I made mistakes that I would normally never make

One thing I am usually scrupulous about is data quality and data integrity. In fact, it was a major part of the paper I was supposed to give at SAS Global Forum – which was cancelled. The whole conference was cancelled, that is, not just my paper. Yet, I uploaded the wrong data set to the course directory, didn’t do any descriptive statistics and barely glanced at the PROC CONTENTS. Of course I know better!

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have a problem

If you’ve read this blog for a long time you may know that I’m not a particular fan of poetry. However, I do know there was a poem with the title, “No man is an island.” (See, not as completely uncivilized as you thought!)

Even if you are healthy, have a safe place to live and a paycheck, you probably know people who don’t

Even if everyone you know- lucky you – is healthy, wealthy and wise, there is the probability that any one of you can get hit tomorrow. Your dad, grandmother or child can become sick. Someone in your family or a close friend can lose a job.

Your daily routine has been disrupted

You can’t go to the gym, church, the library, the mall. Maybe, like many of my friends, your judo club or church is where you used to spend many hours every week and now you can’t go there. People who were important in your life you can’t see any more. Maybe you can’t see your family and friends because they are at high risk due to health problems and have to self-isolate.

Yes, you aren’t living in a slum with no running water, so maybe you feel as if you should be “just shaking it off” and finding some “quarantine project” like Biff and Buffy.

Let me tell you this, Biff and Buffy are assholes. It’s perfectly normal to be anxious. The DEFINITION of anxiety is

A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Oxford Dictionary

We are definitely living in uncertain times.

So, now that we have admitted that it’s normal to feel anxious, the next post is some tips on what to do about it, without sounding TOO much like Buffy.

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