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Teaching in a snap lockdown

It finally happened to me: a snap COVID-19 lockdown hit my city, my university, and my teaching.

Up until now, I had managed to dodge the coronavirus bullet that had so severely impacted many of my teaching colleagues both in Australia and around the world. I hadn’t served as a class coordinator, let alone lecturer, during any of the previous lockdowns.

COVID lockdowns in Australia

The various Australian state governments have ‘gone hard and early’ with lockdowns in the past 18 months, attracting international praise for the way they’ve suppressed the incidence of the virus in the community.

When COVID-19 initially hit in 2020, I worked pretty hard behind-the-scenes supporting a range of classes across the uni, mostly making digital resources for teaching and racking up multiple 80 hour weeks slogging away.

I first taught during the ‘new normal’ in Semester 2 of 2020 (July-November). By that time, I was mostly on top of the transition from the physical to the virtual classroom.

We’ve had a few lockdowns here in Brisbane, Queensland, across 2021 already but they hadn’t really affected my academic work too much… until now.

The State Government called a snap lockdown last Saturday morning (31st July) with it to come into affect at 4 pm later that day. Some potential COVID-19 contact sites across my university campus had been identified in addition to several others in Brisbane. Subsequently, the uni was immediately closed with staff and students barred from going there. At that stage, we had only just finished the first week of the new semester.

Teaching from home

Given some news reports of local COVID-19 cases (the Delta variant) in the days earlier, I had already taken some of my basic teaching resources home in anticipation that a lockdown may be on the cards. It turned-out to be a good move!

The gear I brought with me included my laptop, green screen and stand, lapel microphone, and a couple of portable lights.

My first class (live via Zoom) was on the following Monday at 9 am 2nd of August. Over the weekend, I dragged my dining table out to a position that received some better lighting and got things set-up.

I propped-up my laptop using an empty box and some books, then connected my own keyboard, mouse and monitor to make things easier.

Obviously it’s not ideal, but it’s the best I was able to make of a bad situation.

I was relieved that the first class went off without a hitch. I’ve subsequently spent 8 hours live on Zoom over the first three days of this week, with more to come. But so far, so good.

My first class was taught live and included a combo of theory and practical activities. The transition from the classroom to the Zoom room was relatively easy, but only because the majority of the resources needed for teaching already existed in both the physical and digital form, thanks to heavy lifting completed in 2020.

Final thoughts

I don’t really have any advice for fellow teachers out there at this time. Teaching is bloody hard at the best of times even without a global pandemic. I hope everyone is doing ok.

Keep your head down, keep working hard. I’m sure that your students are a reasonable bunch and will appreciate the efforts that you’re going to.

About The Author

Dr Gilbert Price

...or Dr G to his students, is a multi-award winning lecturer at The University of Queensland, Australia. He teaches introductory Earth Science and second year Palaeobiology, as well as supports several other courses behind-the-scenes. He teaches by instinct and knows what works to inspire and engage students. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, his teaching has thrived in the digital classroom and he is pleased to be able to share his experiences with other educators.

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