BLOCK two, new timetable … and a new regime for college teaching – one that has real rooms allocated to classes.

Oh my! How exciting is this?

At last I get to meet in person a class I have been teaching on Zoom since September … and I also have the good fortune to meet on campus a whole new group of students I haven’t taught at all.

So it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement last week that I approached the Learning Cathedral On Cathedral Street, aka the City Campus of City Of Glasgow College, for the first time teaching there for 20 months.

Covid boostered, masked up, sanitised to within an inch of my very being and cursing the stairs up to the sixth floor (still not brave enough to venture into the confines of a lift), I arrived in the staff room.

There weren’t many folk there, due to Covid protocols, but how nice it was to see colleagues in the flesh. We bumped fists, had a chat and I cleaned down my desk having raided a megabin of wipes – part of our armoury against Covid.

I’m glad to report that my 20-month-old teabags were still in the cupboard. They had only improved with age. Making a brew also involves much wiping down of surfaces, even the carton of milk. But it was a cuppa that was worth the long, lockdown wait.

And so to class. Or, I should say, classes. Due to social distancing restrictions, there is a cap on the number of people in each room. This means most cohorts need to be split.

Lecturing to one group of students over two classrooms was a whole new challenge. At least the rooms were fairly close together on the same corridor. This new regime is going to work wonders for my daily Fitbit goal of 10,000 steps!

Despite the switching around, the lesson went remarkably well. It certainly helps when you are teaching faces and not Zoom boxes. In real life, students don’t have the option of switching off their cameras, something they’re increasingly prone to do. It can be disconcerting teaching a class of 20, 15 of whom are black squares.

I used to joke with them that once we were back on campus, I’d be expecting them to be wearing black cardboard boxes over their heads. Thankfully, they didn’t take me up on this.

But at least on Zoom, their names are helpfully attached to their boxes. This has made me lazy and it’s going to take me a while for names and faces to stick IRL.

Another aspect that I’d missed about being on campus was also immediately apparent … all that lovely noise and chatter as students waited for class to begin.

We had a slight glitch in that the college VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) was down and I couldn’t access my teaching resources. The real irony is that, had I been at home on Zoom, all my materials would have been there on my desktop.

But actually, in real life, our tech crisis turned out to be an ideal opportunity to go back to basics with group discussions and sharing ideas.

Modern technology has been a godsend in difficult times … but sometimes, old school is best.