The calm before the storm at UNC

I went to campus yesterday. It was six days before classes start, and the campus was virtually empty. The sky was clear, the campus green, and everything looked serene and, well, normal. I passed one or two students — all masked, as was I — and a few UNC yard crews, some without masks, which was unsettling.

I went into Carroll Hall, the building in which I teach. Signs tell me which door to use for entering and exiting, and that I must wear a mask. Inside each entrance is a pump bottle of disinfectant, and out of habit, I squirt some on my hands. Decals on the floor  show me which direction I’m supposed to walk. Seats and tables in the hallways where students used to work between classes have been removed; congregating is discouraged.

In the classrooms, decals are on the floor designate where students can sit; six-foot distancing is the rule.

It’s unsettling.

I didn’t encounter a single person but I walked around with a mask on to get the feel. I imagined myself in a classroom talking. My glasses fogged, and the mask was hot. I’m worried I won’t be able to understand students because the mask does muffle voices, mine included. And it takes more energy to speak up; I’m worried discussion will be blunted.

That’s unsettling, too.

Because some students chose to be taught remotely, my workload increases, effectively meaning that I will teach some students in person and some separately on Zoom. I’m worried that the additional time and work will get old quickly, though. (No, our pay didn’t increase even as the work has.)

Still, I left campus excited about the possibilities. It’s an interesting pedagogical challenge. How can I adapt to the pandemic and changing teaching and reporting modes and be effective? How can I keep nervous students (and myself) safe, and energized to learn? It’s been fun to think through new methods that will breakthrough the obstacles.

Then, I see this, posted last night:

I wonder how many students, staff and faculty will have to get sick before the Board of Governors decides to close the campus.