Every morning Associate Professor of Human Development Counseling Holly Thompson goes to work upstairs in her guest bedroom with one of her favorite co-workers, three-year old Xaria. After a brief consultation and a quick hello on Zoom, Xaria heads back downstairs to consult with dad about more pressing issues like toys.
Thompson has found that separation of home and work life has been one of the most difficult challenges of remote learning.
“I’ve not really had to be a mom and a professor at the same time, all day long,” she said. “But now that we are several weeks into it, we are figuring it out. I have a supportive partner, and we have found a rhythm that works for us.
Thompson says her Human Development Counseling faculty and students are also finding their rhythms.
“We were moving into this world as quickly as we could with skill and competence,” she said. “There are a lot of things to factor in when you can’t meet face to face.”
Thompson was referring to clinical counseling skills.
“There was a halt to all of our clinical activities and that was challenging because our students weren’t able to meet with clients,” she said. “It created some interesting challenges. They had to learn telehealth, but we are moving forward.”
The department received HIPAA-approval for their Zoom telehealth portal and students were able to take advantage of free online training curriculum offered by the Professional Education Systems Institute (PESI) to all helping professions such as professional counseling, social work and psychology.
“Technology has improved vastly, but it’s not the same as sitting in the same room. I can’t imagine a way that technology could account for being in the same time and space,” Thompson said. “Zoom isn’t so bad, but there is energy in a room that technology can’t account for, but it will work in this situation.”
Zoom has also been instrumental in keeping things like Campus Senate and job searches moving forward.
“Last week we had a teaching demo and there were 40 to 50 people who logged in. In person, we probably wouldn’t have had that many attendees. It was wonderful to have that level of participation and support. We really didn’t expect that.”
Her advice is to breathe.
“I say it 25 times a day,” Thompson said. “The most important thing to do is just breathe deeply. It’s something we don’t do well. It is something we don't do well normally. In this unique time, we also must have flexibility and allow some space for the unknown and imperfection. We’re moving through this journey, this process where the destination is unknown, but we’ll be tougher in the long run, wherever it is.”