Teacher and Student: Nathan Cox on Education during Lockdown

We asked Nathan Cox to go through what it has been like for him juggling being a teacher and an Masters student;

On the eve of what looks like another full lockdown I’ve been asked to write about my experiences of the first lockdown, although I know my situation wasn’t completely unique it wasn’t the norm. I came at lockdown education from two angles, first being a tutor teaching a module to Level 4 degree students and the second being an MA student completing my modules and final major project.

My lockdown started in stages,  I knew that it was coming but it seemed like an age before it was confirmed and it culminated, like for most people on March the 23rd when Uni, college and schools went into full lockdown.

Thinking back now is a strange contemplation; it is a cliché but it does seem like such a long time ago, the complete unknown and May that became such a long year.

I juggled the teaching of the module, which was mercifully coming to an end of specific taught practices, but still had the handing in and assessment stages to complete. Part of that was final printed matter and a certain physicality that could not be enabled through a screen, but all of this would be considered and the students did very well. It was great to see them tackle this adversity and overcome it. Great life lessons for all concerned and the situation presented some new opportunities that I intend to carry forward into teaching further modules and independent practices in future.

My MA modules followed a similar learning path; the use of Microsoft Teams from the other angle was an invaluable experience and one the MA has taught me throughout; seeing teaching from a student angle in real time rather than from my last educational experience, 25 years ago. This situation has taught me to look for things to be grateful for and the things I’m most grateful for in this scenario are that I’m so glad I started my “Socially Engaged” module when I did – before lockdown! This gave me a foundation of work to draw upon so even though it didn’t reach completion, as in I didn’t have chance to do the exhibition with the groups and that I couldn’t start my big “This is Stockport” idea off in ideal circumstances, I still got it to a desired outcome. My other module was the “New Media” which was slightly more affected the imagery produced as the idea and adaptations changed form week to week.

The big thing that loomed large on the horizon was my final project. I had intended it to be a large piece of work exploring themes and ideas surrounding the notion of photographic practices. This was eventually, either by the situation, or just generally shaped into a New Topographical theme based on a trip to get my mum a new microwave. Some of the images can be viewed on my instagram feed (link at the bottom of this post).

The production of the work and the words was a solitary endeavour, with much outside critical evaluation, partly from necessity, by design, timely needs and the situation.  I’m sure this approach will affect the final grade but it is what it is.

So thinking about the purpose of this piece, which I think, would be to pass on my experiences and therefore advice:

Keep trying to produce the work, no matter what that is. Make an image out of what you have to hand, set small projects, make time, look through your archives. Sometimes it’s just the act of making time for any aspect of your work that spurs you on to other things. Art is seemingly the one way out of this mess; you can see evidence that it is, with the current government’s persecution of it.  The establishment hates it, so make more of it, have fun with it, take it seriously, share it especially in arenas like the Two Forty Four Network, or keep it to yourself, whatever you can – just keep making it and be kind to yourself in that process. It’s ok if you don’t produce anything today, sometimes the sheer act of trying is enough and if that’s not possible then recharge for when you can.

So with all the above in mind, during this situation I have managed to produce some images that have no real home within a project, apart from the Covid diaries format of imagery that I fear is now so populated as to render it indiscernible and invalid from assessment. So here I present 8 images from the last 8 months.

Thank you for reading.

You can see my work here at www.urgent-temporality.co.uk or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/urgent.temporality or read my ramblings on Twitter at https://twitter.com/UTemporality

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