Breaking social distancing: Emotional connect with my team during lockdown

By Vidya Singh*

It took some days to get to the nerves of the pandemic and its impact in and around the daily life after returning to Nagpur for the Holi vacation. Amidst the social distancing, the daily life of self-help domestic chores and the distanced digital teaching n learning with the responsibility of leading a small team for conducting the architecture-interior design bachelor courses, slowly started sinking into thyself showing different facets of connections through communications.

That experience now lived through four lockdowns of two plus months and counting with the first unlockdown now provides an enlightening realization that the time actually helped breaking the social distancing in a lot of ways with a lot of people unlike the regular days when we met in the institute corridors and classes. On Campus equations are always different as one looks for a comfort zone and compatibility within the group and prefers to remain in small group. The common discussions thus become rare since the classes and beyond keep faculty engaged.

With the lockdown, it became a daunting task to keep momentum going amidst the hectic routine of faculty members during the conduct of online classes. Since human behavior is usually inclined towards lazy start if there is no scheduled activity, the twice-a-day departmental meeting emerged as a thoughtful act for various reasons.

So, now when I look back to these ninety days, I’m able to put it in black & white to assert that it helped establish better emotional connect with my Team. And it also helped my team to connect with each other better. It is a wonderful experience to see the layers of hesitation, ego and age slowly and unknowingly fading away and a new flower of team building blossom. Only a strong team can take ahead the vision and mission set by any school.

Architecture and Interior Design schools are not only about experiential learning but also experiencing the responsibility of molding the future professional as well as the future of the cities. Only a sound and healthy minded team can orient students towards that desired goal. Interestingly, this meeting platform became a rendezvous where faculty were heard, issues were discussed, creative & innovative solutions were evolved.

More importantly, the young faculty were mentored by the senior faculty. With time there was more ease in conversation. More confidence in request and more ease in sharing. Slowly the bonding developed, and a changed atmosphere is visible in the virtual meeting rooms. One things that stands out is the sharing of thoughts and feelings started, and the team began to wait for that twice-a-day meeting to the extent that they refused to discontinue with the protocol of meetings even after the last teaching day.

Meetings kept everyone going and remain steady. Irrespective of physical distancing, I now see the emotional connect between each one of them. I see the faculty, all living alone getting that strength to fight the long hours of darkness, to see the rays of hope of rising sun and waiting to see colleagues to smile and talk to and to further thru the chores of the day.

The institutional environment was well prepared to face the critical situation and provided us with an efficient online system to communicate besides sufficient space to adjust in the new format of teaching-learning. In disciplines like architecture-interior design like at the school, the practical subjects were challenging in the beginning however, very quickly reached the desired improvisations to offer the best possible teaching-learning.

The lockdown online connects not only brought my team closer but also created a bond between faculty and students. The young, vibrant Gen-Z, always ready to revolt, always ready to defy were hold back in the houses, completely engaged, and submerged in the learning and in the assignments. Students did face crisis in adjusting to the 24×7 staying at home. Neither parents nor children were comfortable.

Everyone missed their space initially but eventually everyone felt more secured at home with the family and at the same time realizing that work and life must move on. Teachers came in handy to the students to let their life keep moving with the regular classes, assignments, exams, and simple talks. Teachers deserve the due credit of their efforts in contributing to pandemic as a front-liner by engaging the youth in constructive manner besides soft mental-psychological healing through the teaching-learning.

It is overwhelming to find students sharing their feelings and issues, and even looking up to their teachers as the Guru, we know from the past, who may help them out in this difficult time. So much of talking going around the globe on SOP’s and new normal. For me, it is the dawn of a new equation in everyone’s life. It will take some time to bring things back to normal, but for sure the new normal will have more ethics and values in terms of relationships.

If we achieve that, slowly a change will come towards the sustainable living. There will be a definite change in the approach towards designing spaces and dealing with spaces –urban or rural. Since that change is seen in my team, both the faculty members and the students through this social distancing time which enhanced the emotional connect.

The emotional connect became stronger than the normal college days that is the pre-lockdown and my team in turn developed more confidence in me, as a leader, as they also were given the strength and support that they were seeking in the crisis time. The work ultimately kept everyone agile and offered the opportunity to explore and learn on the digital platforms. As a firm believer of ‘work is Karma’, so being there for those who need and continue to work with honesty & sincerity is that Karma.

*Professor and Dean/Director, Amity School of Architecture & Planning, Amity University Chhattisgarh. Email ID: vsingh@rpr.amity.edu

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