Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, June 05

Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, June 5

Last week my challenges to you were:
1. Write an old fashioned letter to a friend… even if they live just next door. Use a pen and paper… stick it in an envelope and mail it. Write about what ever you want – short or long, deep or funny… your pleasure. Be intentional about the care you put into this. Do this as an act of love.
2. Take 5 minutes (more if you like) each day and just be. Push the thoughts from your mind and just be.
3. Limit your intake of social media each day to – say – 30 minutes. If you don’t do a bunch of social media, maybe you watch YouTube or television. Limit that. (The YouTube bit is gonna be tough for me…) Turn off the technology and find something else to do… like a book, or paints, or dirt, or sewing…
How did you do?

I didn’t do very good on the first piece. I honestly didn’t look for the time to do it. I will carry this one forward for myself and try to accomplish it through this next week.

 

I did really well on the second one, the mindfulness piece. When I am really stressed, this is something that I have to do for me. I have to take a little time to just be… to just push the concerns, thoughts, aggravations, and all that “junk” out of my head and just be…

 

I also bombed on the social media piece… well, I didn’t really bomb on the social media because I don’t like Facebook (I personally can’t stand the hypocrisy that Mark Zuckerberg IS) or twitter… I don’t use any of that stuff, but I do like my YouTube… and that’s just as bad I suppose… And while its GOOGLE that owns YouTube, I sometimes feel a bit “dirty” for supporting all that emotionless technology. I will try better on this next week.


This week I’d like to share just a little about my current struggles with ADHD. How I am finding the “working at home” and the “social distancing/physical distancing” affecting me. I’d also like to share a little about my experiences working from home in general and how that’s affecting me.

I experience two very distinct facets or positions that my ADHD presents to me. One of those facets is that I work well when I am engaged with or more specifically – when I am doing what I love doing – and that’s teaching. The other facet is my “leave me alone, don’t bother me, I’m working here… HYPERFOCUS”. It may very well be that they are just reflections of one another.
Working from home – at the very start of this “PIVOT” as its been referred to – moving from being an in class instructor to an online instructor, I went into hyper-focus mode and did the very best of what I could do to present the materials that I would normally present in a fashion that was as close to what I was used to as it could be. I basically spent 8 weeks doing 12 to 14 hours a day trying to fit a round peg into a… well it wasn’t even a square… more like some star shape… and I was really getting frustrated because it wasn’t working.

Now, a bit of background, I am using a platform for online instruction called Moodle. It’s a very widely used Learning Management System that is supposed to help an instructor deliver materials to students. When I first started this in March – I had known a tiny little bit about the tool, but had pretty much zero guidance and documentation and support for this platform is terrible. I liken it to back in the days when Microsoft DOS 2.1 WAS the standard… everything command line, things were cryptic… now – I’m not a dummy, I learned DOS and the command line and was very proficieint at it… but there weren’t a bunch of really good resources in circulation at the time… it was all trial and error, digging through MicroSofts own documentation…. And at least that was reliable… Back to Moodle… Moodle is open source, its GNU licensed and well – THERE’S NO MANUFACTURERS DOCUMENTATION. Well there is, but is sucks.. There truly isn’t a place where you can go and find a compendium of all the commands and what they do… couple that with the fact that I am working at a college where the MOODLE people have restricted some of what a user can do…. And well – lets just say – its super frustrating.

So – back to me trying to represent what I would do in a classroom setting to students that are now distant – disconnected socially from me and from each other. The pieces of the round peg being shoved into that star shape just started peeling off… like a glob of playdough in one of those toys kids make extrusions from… GRRR… So while I saw that happening, I tried harder and harder to fix it.

Even broadcasting presentations while standing in front of a white board in my basement didn’t feel right… The students were logged in, I could see their icons on the desktop of the my computer, but they all had their microphones and video muted to conserve bandwidth and only unmuted their microphones when they were asked to respond to a question.
RECALL IF YOU WILL – my ADHD presents me with 1. A need for social interaction, 2. I’ll close up, turtle, and hyperfocus… I’ve actually learned that if I don’t get the interaction – the hyperfocus and disconnection comes about all on its own…

This is a problem for me… I also struggle with anxiety and depression and these two disorders tend to make me “hole up” or self isolate as well…. “How do I know they are different?” Depression and anxiety feel more like fear, the ADHD isolation feels more like “comfort”… if you can follow that. I’m not currently experiencing a great deal of dread about going out into the community or out to do shopping… and the turtling that anxiety and depression cause that type of dread… What I am experiencing now is more of a comfort that “I am doing fine right where I am” kind of thing… and that’s a concern for me.

I know from working with the federal government in IT from my home for a number of years, that I don’t do really well when I am ‘on my own’ for too much time. I get too used to it… and I am thinking that it’s the way my brain and my ADHD adapt to the lack of social interaction. So – I really, really hope that I can get back into my office and my work routine at the college and start to get some sort of normal interaction with a class back into my life.

I know that it might be some months before our society is able to return to small gatherings, closer classrooms, and social situations. It might be more than months. I am going to have to be watchful for how the “working from home” is affecting my mental health. I sincerely don’t enjoy interacting with my learners through messaging, emails, and video chat. I hope this doesn’t last so long that people forget even more of their social skills…

The whole learning online piece certainly isn’t for everyone – in fact – I don’t believe that it is suited to anything like a majority of learners… That said – Online is pretty much all we have at the present time – so – that’s what we have to do. I know – I didn’t sign up to teach online…

I know I like to plan, and plan, and plan to set things up. Being tossed into teaching online by the pandemic messed with all that planning in the space of a week or so… Perhaps with time to be able to plan an online experience, to be able to learn the interface and be able to include functions that the online tool can do – and perhaps with appropriate supports for both instructors and students – the online experience would be different – both for me and for the learner… but even given all that – the pieces that would still be missing would the relationships that are built in the classroom between students and instructor, and the simple social interactions of an instructor being able to scan the classroom for understanding or questions…

The end of the class will come, the exams will be written and the practical exercise *hopefully* will be concluded and this class will move forward… being the class of July 2020 – my class of COVID-19. I hope that I will see all of them for levels 2 through 4 of their training – – in a classroom, face to face… I hope that they will continue on, in spite of the challenges that they have had to face in their current experience. They will have missed out on the sense of community sharing a space constructs… sharing a virtual classroom just isn’t the same… for them or for me.

I understand that this piece is all over the place – and that’s a bit of a look into my headspace right now… I’m tired, I’m feeling beat up and I am concerned for my students…. and myself…


This week I’d like to challenge you to:

1. BE INTENTIONALLY KIND.
2. BE THOUGHTFUL. Think about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
3. BE GRATEFUL.

That’s it, I challenge you.

One thought on “Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, June 05

  1. Hi Kevin,
    First I would like to say how much i have valued your presentations and your blog and have used your tools constructively for some of the challenges I have faced in the past year. I respect your strength and integrity in speaking about mental health and your words and challenges have been quite supportive.

    I too have felt the same challenge of ‘pivoting’ from F2F to online for a vocational course that is very skill development based. My pedagogy comes from socio-constructivism and I too have recognized the limitation to student-student and student-instructor interaction with dark screens and muted mikes, I feel I have compromised my unique style of building awareness, academic skill development, and yes that simple observation from the students’ facial expression or body language if the instruction has been effective or if they are engaged, and make adjustments accordingly.

    I agree with what you have said – online learning is not for the majority – neither learners nor instructors. I have studied online-by choice as a mature adult with the discipline to do so- and I have taught online, yet I did not see the student preparation nor the engagement to convince me that this was an effective approach in my field, so I discontinued with the online teaching.

    Now, as you have stated, we don’t have a choice which I find a hard pill to swallow as do my learners. We continue this Spring and Summer semester ‘experientially’ with walks in the forest or to the park where we can sit at a picnic table and work from the texts. The students are highly engaged and extremely satisfied with this ‘alternative’ method and unique challenges, such as using a box to be able to view a computer screen or as a soap box for presentations in the great outdoors.

    I guess we are killing two birds with one stone, getting exercise and skill building all the while having an opportunity to work on our connection to nature and the mental health benefits that brings. It sure has helped me.

    In solidarity

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