College Life at Home: Marcus Brown, CHS Learning Academy Trainer

The next entry into our series on college life at home, we spoke to Children’s Hearing Scotland Learning Academy Trainer Marcus Brown on how he has adapted to lockdown.

When lockdown started I was optimistic about coping in these conditions. I came into the lockdown period with a big advantage that should help- prior to working at the college I had my own business for twenty years, working on my own from home. I had my own home office and a great work from home routine. When I started working for the college I was also lucky enough to work for our Glasgow office. My manager is great at allowing me to work at home when we are busy with work that can be done from home, so home working is very much in my blood.

Over the last seven weeks there have been some surprises and lessons to learn. I’ve also had to use my resilience more than I thought. The good, the bad and the resilience, if you like. That’s a good tile for a twenty first century film, maybe I should copyright that one.

So, without further ado, my good, bad and resilience during lockdown:

The good 

The sense of peace for a while anyway. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but our community was so quiet over the early weeks of the lockdown. There was very little traffic or noise overall. The streets were quiet, the air was clean. I noticed a lot more wildlife about. For a while anyway, over recent days things are getting closer to normal again with more traffic day by day.       

My family have been incredibly supportive. I live with my wife and teenage daughter. My wife works in another role in the children’s hearing system and we both understand each other’s role well, which helps. The time we have spent as a family has helped me to appreciate how lucky I am to share my life with two beautiful, patient, caring people, both with such a fantastic sense of humour and fun.

My trainees have been wonderful. There has been a huge support for a move to online learning, a massive appetite for continued learning and a real interest in supporting each other. One trainee who works in the NHS shared that she enjoyed the training as an escape from the horrors and challenges of her work. A common theme in the trainee group has been a concern for the lives of the most vulnerable infants, children and young people in our communities and a desire to complete their training as soon as possible so they can do all they can to help. Fantastic people and it’s so inspiring to work with this group.

New skills- I can now use Teams and Zoom for video conferencing. I have been assessing trainee work submitted on audio files. I recently imbedded audio commentary on some plenary slides for three courses (really weird experience that one!) and ran chat room support for another three courses. All tasks that would have been beyond me a few months ago.  

More opportunities for one to one training with our trainees. Normally we work with courses of 25 to 30 trainees at this time of the year, with limited opportunity for one to one training with individual trainees on the course. Recent weeks however have thrown up opportunities to catch up with individual trainees by phone, Zoom, online, etc. to provide that one to one training and coaching. It’s great getting to know my trainees better and to shaping my teaching to their own needs.         

My house is powered by 100% renewable energy, which means that over the last seven weeks I have only used 100% renewable energy for all my training. I must remember to let Beth Brownlee know!                             

The bad

Time is still difficult to manage. It seems to take so much longer to do everything in isolation and more work seems to build up every day. One part of my digital courses involves three hundred separate pieces of assessment and it takes a lot of time to do each one to the standard I expect of myself. I am learning to be patient, kind to myself and to be realistic about what I can achieve in one working day. Also using tools such as limiting access time to emails helps to maintain focus.

Sharing workspace has been an issue. My wife also works from home at the moment. Unfortunately we only have one home office. We are doing our best to share this equally, but I have used the bed, a chair in the living room and even the sofa as work spaces recently. It’s amazing how challenging it can be adjusting to these new spaces.

Prior to lockdown I had been delivering courses in Glasgow and Aberdeen. I really miss the buzz of visiting both cities. I love spending time in cities as well as working from my home.

I really miss being around my colleagues in the learning academy, our facilitators and the panel member community. It’s a pleasure to work with the people in the hearing system and seeing people on Teams and Zoom just isn’t the same.        

Being a big music fan, I am really missing my gigs and festivals. Two of the festivals we had planned to visit in the summer have cancelled already and I am starting to lose count of the number of gigs being postponed or cancelled. I’m really missing live music.

Weekends are really limited now. We tend to travel a little on the weekends I am not working. I am really missing trips to the beach, to visit new places or just shopping trips to Glasgow or Edinburgh. Even going out for lunch or to the cinema.                               

My resilience

Elmo the Dachshund (and former duvet dog)

Like most people I have really enjoyed my allocated one daily opportunity to leave the house for exercise. We have always had dogs, so dog walking is our thing. After our main walking dog, who was 14 years old, died just before Christmas last year. We are down to just one dog, our mini Dachshund Elmo. He is not much of a walking dog- more of a duvet dog, but seems to have enjoyed our family walks recently. We are lucky to live close to a variety of great walks from forests, to walks next to rivers, to walks in the countryside, there are a range of fantastic walks within five minutes of our front door.

The hens

My home office overlooks our back garden, where we keep our free range hens. We have four hens, all rescued from the egg industry. The ladies are hilarious to watch and spending a few minutes watching their antics from the home office window always raises a smile.

Just having a garden is great. It’s good to have that private outdoor space to relax after work when the weather is good. We have also caught up on our gardening really early this year, so the garden is actually looking great and a lot less wild than normal.    

I am not much of a TV person and I don’t do social media, so downtime at the moment is all about good books, great albums and watching some NFL games from last season. I don’t often get as much time to listen to albums and it’s been great discovering some great new ands and re-discovering some albums I haven’t listened to in years.

However the lockdown is impacting on you, I hope you benefit from the good, do all you can to overcome the bad and enjoy your own kind of resilience.

Take care and be kind to yourself and those you love.    

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