College Life at Home: Anne Kirkwood, Learning Co-ordinator

Continuing our series looking into the lives of college staff working from home, Learing Co-ordinator Anne Kirkwood gives us her humorous take on what it’s been like in this new way of working.

Lockdown begins

It was all quite odd at the start of lockdown. I left college on Tuesday March 17 with my laptop and charger thinking “Yeah, we’ll be working from home for just a few weeks, maybe four weeks maximum.” I knew Covid-19 was a big deal as my friend, who teaches in Italy, had been on lockdown for weeks previous to us, but I never really thought it would be bad for us.

Working from home took a bit of adjusting. I found I was lacking structure in all senses. Mentally, my train of thought was all over the place (yes, worse than usual!) as I kept getting interrupted. Microsoft Teams was pinging every minute, email was going off, WhatsApp groups were red-hot and friends/panicked parents, who found themselves struggling to home school, were asking me for advice from how to time-table lessons through to giving them a crash course in algebra! On top of this my golden retriever, who normally goes with a dog walker and runs with his pack, is adjusting to 24/7 of sole human contact and constantly wants be outside (probably to get away from the sound of notifications pinging every minute).

Getting organised

My physical structure left a lot to be desired too. I was hunched over my laptop whilst sitting on the couch. I knew I couldn’t continue to work like that and by the end of the second week I had been online and bought a desk, chair, keyboard and mouse. Nothing expensive as “this is not long term”. Well, that’s what I keep telling myself! I was fair pleased with my bargains until I had to actually use them. My £7 keyboard that has; no pound sign (guess who chose to have a £ in their password), temperamental shifts key and the space bar needs to be used with a hammer. All is ok though, as “this is not long term!”

My partner is a joiner and works for a company who had him working in Forth Valley Royal Hospital. He’d return home with stories of it being the epi-centre for Covid-19 cases, how there was little PPE in use and social distancing was impossible. It was worrying times but eventually he was furloughed a week after I started to work from home. This was a sense of relief but also a bit more stressful as I had to deal with him being home 24/7. Could I survive this without there being a murder? Was I going to have to truss him up like an old carpet and dump him in the canal or would I have to suddenly build a new patio? And for those of you wondering, no, he hasn’t finished fitting my kitchen that he started 14 months ago!

Getting settled

By week 3 I was more into working from home and felt settled. The highlight of my day would be (and still is) the 11.00am webinars from the CDN. I have learned so much from these 30-minute sessions. Plus the open chat after is light relief to find that it’s not just you who is feeling unsettled or as it’s known in lockdown lingo, on a “coronacoaster”.

Video chats have been great. Along with feeling connected to your colleagues, it’s been so interesting to have a look about their houses and check out their décor! I am just so glad that just before lockdown, I moved out the motorbike that was parked in my living room, it probably would have raised a few eyebrows.

Along with supporting my colleagues, I am supporting vulnerable families, friends and neighbours. I do a weekly online shop for myself and several other households. The delivery driver must wonder how much food I go through. He probably thinks instead of the Covid-10, I’m going for the Covid-30!

Helping the community

I also give the use of my garden to local families with young children who don’t have access to a garden of their own. This is a safe outdoor space for their children to play and it also entertains my dog as he’s got someone new to play with. The added bonus for him is, kids always come with food. It’s basically an all you can eat buffet for him. As a thank you I have been left cake and beer. There’s nothing quite like a two and a half year old shouting through the window “Anne! Do you want a beer?” We teach them young in Broxburn and I am proud to say that I have been part of that education.

I am also very proud to say that I work for West Lothian College. The support and positivity that staff and students have put into the local community during this time gives me a warm heart. Or maybe that’s down to the quarantini I’ve just had? Stay safe, look after each other and remember, “this is not long term”.

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