The year 2021 has sped by incredibly fast. Although the uncertainty we have been facing due to the pandemic still surrounds us, many things around me have changed, and I am happier than this time a year ago.
This academic year, I affiliated with three different universities, conducting research at one place and teaching at two. I started these new roles with a bit of nervousness and tension because I have sole responsibility for the programme. But once the semester began, the day was too hectic to worry about anything. I was distracted by work each day. The luckiest part is that I can work remotely at all three, and I am very grateful for that.
I made some trips to meet in person and collaborate with our research partner. One of the happiest moments from this year was when, as a researcher, I joined a workshop designed for people with dementia. We created woodblock prints together in the traditional Japanese style. We first drew a picture on paper. The paper was then placed onto a block of wood. We then carved the picture into its surface, and after that, applied ink. A piece of paper was placed on top of it, and the ink was transferred to the paper. When an artist explained the process to me, so many memories came back. I made woodblock prints so many times as a child at primary school in Japan, and I knew exactly how to do it. Needless to say, I really enjoyed the time with all the participants. I made “flowers” and a “cat”. The participants made truly stunning prints of elaborate landscapes and animals. We had a nice chat throughout the session. One of the participants, a man, asked me if I had made woodblock prints before. The experience evoked vivid memories from my childhood. I remember a teacher in the art class praising me as “excellent!” when I created a paper collage using a hundred pieces of coloured paper, designing a picture of a large tree. I loved the art class, and outside the art class, I drew my comic stories, manga. My dream was to become a comic artist.
Back on topic: this semester brought me the great joy of some nice face-to-face meetings, but I mostly worked online. I’m noticing more and more that we need to enhance our skills to work online more effectively and meaningfully. Especially in teaching, we consider online sessions an “alternative” and still tend to plan a large part of the session within frameworks developed for face-to-face instruction. I must admit that I spent a great deal of time this year learning pedagogy and adapting modules from the existing methods, and that they are very useful. But the current Covid situation is forcing us to rapidly and drastically our way of working, learning and participating. For me, the first step was taking online module design much more seriously and believing that we can better communicate online. The next step has been ensuring time for building rapport with my colleagues, students, and research partners in remote circumstances. This is what I am currently thinking about and wanting to improve.
There is so much I want to do during the Christmas holidays. I want to write an abstract for a journal paper, update my CV and academic portfolio, cook nice meals, and read books.