Ask the grumpies: How are you dealing with returning to post-vaccination life?

Jessica asks:

I would be interested in a post on more of your thoughts about transitioning out of covid life as you get vaccinated. I realize it might be a bit different for you since kids aren’t vaccinated yet. I am more than 2 weeks past my first dose and so is my boyfriend (the only person I live with), so I’m starting to think more about what I will do once I’m fully vaccinated… It will definitely be a slow transition as case loads hopefully go down. It’s hard to know what will be appropriate.

Also, I am usually very extroverted and adventurous, and I am excited to see more people again but also feel like the pandemic has kind of changed my personality, or at least temporarily changed my level of comfort with high amounts of activity. I still miss doing things, but doing things is more draining now. So that’s also going to be weird to figure out.

This is going to vary a lot for people all over the country based on their own cost-benefit calculations.  Right now even if we didn’t have kids I wouldn’t be going out at all (except my in-person classes) because I get filled with such RAGE seeing all the anti-maskers about being awful.  I’m still so angry about my last dentist visit I can’t even imagine trying to get my hair cut or to pick up groceries.  We’re also still well into the purple zone (4x the cutoff of new cases per day of the orange zone line).

I’m not even sure that I will be going fully back to the work office in the fall– it has been really nice not being constantly interrupted by students or given a bazillion small service assignments just because I’m there.  Also I seem to be the only person that junior faculty ask for advice which… I’m fine with when it’s junior faculty in my field and I’m the right person for it, but less fine with when there’s a better person to ask (I’ve been doing a lot more, “Go ask X”).  Though I guess I’m still getting those emails.  One of my friends asked me to restart our daily walks two weeks after our second vaccine.  But I just don’t want to go into work, so I said no.  (I have to rush home after class for another zoom meeting, or I would do it after class on the days I go in, I guess.)

Regardless of the vaccine situation DC2 (age 9 next fall) will be going back to school.  I can’t see middle school working out from home (unlike this year where elementary school has been fantastic).  This particular middle school has had pretty low case loads, and most of the elementary schools that feed into it are similarly low caseloads.  I’m strongly hoping that DC1 will be able to get vaccinated this summer– but first Pfizer has to approve and then we have to find a place that gives out Pfizer.  But we’re willing to drive to find a place.  (Our little part of the state has leaned heavily into Moderna.)

I’m hoping to be able to convince my sister to drive down from the city to see us once she’s fully vaccinated, but I suspect she’s going to hold out for us going into the city which is less safe.  DH will probably not be convincable about that until the kids have been vaccinated.  My in-laws are still making noise about visiting us in the Fall– they’re both fully vaccinated but summer in the South is awful (even ignoring high prevalence rates and evil anti-vaxxers) so their visit would be pretty much just stuck inside our house which is pretty boring as delightful as my children are.  We thought briefly of going up to the midwest to visit ourselves, but there’s still the problem of getting there.

So yeah, I don’t know.  I’ve been leaning heavily into not putting on pants, not making small-talk, etc.  It will be hard to go back.  This time last year I really wanted to get away to like a cabin someplace beautiful and cool with water, but somehow I’ve lost my yearning to actually be in nature.  Maybe it’s all the beautiful pictures that Microsoft shows on start-up screens — anyplace we could get to without a plane trip just isn’t going to measure up.

At some point after classes end, I have a plan to take all our plastic grocery bags from curbside to the grocery store recycling place.  But that’s the only major thing we’ve got.  Basically I plan to cling to my house and zoom as best I can.

What have you all been doing since getting fully vaccinated?  What do you plan to do?

Suggestions for making classes more interactive

One of my introverted junior colleagues asked for suggestions on how to keep students engaged for a 3 hour block class without completely exhausting him and also to make sure they don’t skip the readings before class.  Here’s some of my suggestions.

I really like Boice’s suggestion with teaching, “get them to do the work,” and keep that in mind when I’m coming up with new class preps.

Here’s some more targeted suggestions:

– Provide them with discussion questions to go along with their readings, then hit those discussion questions in class discussion. Since everybody will have something written down, you can cold-call and/or round robin around the table to get everyone’s answers.
– Have them come up with discussion questions.  Have them post the discussion questions online prior to class for everyone to read.
– Ask them to present on specific topics. (I find presenting about the details of different public programs to be kind of boring, so I’ll let them pick off a list for one of my classes. It’s something they can present on without a huge amount of econ knowledge.)
– Have them find literature or news stories that directly relate to the topic for the week.
– Have them follow people of interest on Twitter and pick a tweet or two that deal with the topics of interest in you class. You can start class going around the table and asking them about what’s going on in current events based on their twitter feeds.
– Cancel regular class prior to a major written assignment but require them to stop by your office individually to get feedback on their papers prior to submission.
– Have them workshop each other’s papers in class. (Your campus writing center may have resources to help you do this.)
– Debate
– In-class exercises
– Guest lecture
– Ask the library for help on research
– Show videos, discuss the videos

What suggestions do you have for breaking up long classes and keeping students engaged?

It’s not you, it’s me: We really are busy!

A lot of folks on the interwebs have been talking about a need for socialization, and wanting new IRL friends.

I remember feeling like that when DC1 was a toddler, but I don’t feel that so much now.  Really I haven’t felt like that that since DC2 was born.  So some of that is that I’m just getting a lot of interaction at home, both overall and with people whose maturity/cuteness quotient is greater than 1– as DC1 grows up, interacting with hir is more like adult interaction, and there’s only so much personal contact this introvert can have before it’s too much.

Part of it, I think, is that I get a lot of interaction at work.  I consider a lot of my colleagues to be friends, and I get some socializing each day.  It helps a lot that even in this male-dominated field, my department has a lot of women!  And there’s junior guys at similar life-stages to my own, so we can talk about kid-related stuff, from, you know, an economist perspective.  I don’t do a ton of socializing at home other than the occasional kids’ party.

Right now, we’re living someplace super easy to socialize.  I have friends from high school and college within a 30 min drive (some are even in walking distance!).  DH has friends from high school and graduate school.  I’m working in the same building as professional friends.  It would be so cool if I were an extrovert or had lots and lots of free time.  (I mean, it is cool, but I’m really not taking advantage, you know?)

And it was really cool… back when we first moved here, when I was recovering from moving and didn’t realize that I had pressing deadlines about to attempt to suffocate me.  Friends from various parts of our lives used our moving here as an excuse to throw parties so we got to see a bunch of people (and often their new babies) all at once.   We had obligatory dinners or lunches with several other close friends from previous lives.

But now.  Now I am just so tired.  DH and/or I are out of town for seminars/conference/work/grants/#2’s wedding every week from the month after we got here until November.  Relatives from outside of paradise are setting up times to visit (even though we don’t have an extra bedroom).

I haven’t told my college roommate who lives a few towns over we’re in town.  I swear I will… once things settle down.  Once we have some time.  Which may be never.

It’s not that I don’t love my friends.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy hanging out with cool and amazing people, both new and old.  It’s just that it’s nice to grab some time to myself.  Or with just my family.  Where I don’t have to watch what I say.  I don’t have to perform.  I can’t feel foolish.  Or I can just quietly be.  Maybe with a cat or two.  And I do have close friends who accept me for who I am… but they’re still not close enough that they want me hanging around without pants.  That’s really an immediate family-only thing.

Do you want more social interaction?