The end of the year is fast approaching (for some, it’s already here) and plans are tentatively being made for what to do/how to change next year’s curriculum, meetings, gatherings, etc.. People are changing jobs or retiring, and it feels as though we’re inching closer to a post-pandemic “normal” (as I type, however, cases and deaths are increasing so… maybe?).
(no that’s not there twice, one is for work and the other not).
I have a colleague who starts every class with a quick go-round answering one of a couple of questions, ranging from “what’s your favorite smell?” to “what city would you like to visit?” and beyond. It sets the class apart from others in terms of carving out a non-academic moment to then help students focus on this class, this material rather than rushing from whatever they were doing before to now. That’s great and if I were teaching on a regular basis, I’d do something similar.
However, in a meeting? Having the “check in” takes time. Time we could be spending on the actual committee/departmental/group work. I’ll admit that during the COVID Zoom department meetings I’d have everyone share “one good thing”, in part because we were all so stressed that hearing something good felt like we were starting with a win. And “good” could be as simple as “I woke up before my alarm”!
But now? Asking how I am is just inviting either a grunt, a “meh” or the ever-popular “fine” rather than a real response, because I know the person leading the meeting doesn’t really care how I’m doing, it’s just the first item on the agenda. For any of us lucky enough to be leading a group, let’s try to use these as a way to reach out, but make sure we mean the question we’re asking and care about the response. Save “how are you?” for a private moment, and only if you mean it.