Who Are These Masked People? Going From Virtual to In-Person

On the first day of Fall term 2021, it rained torrentially. Oolies new and old scrambled through the slick PSU streets to find the large lecture hall that housed our first meeting. There were all the common indicators of a hectic first day: the dash to find the right rooms and buildings, new faces, new syllabi, and new procedures to learn. Many Ooligan managers were on the same footing as the newcomers: we had trained during the remote school year, and this was our first in-person class. In some regards, we were as fresh as the first-years in the program.

When I was training to be the next Publisher’s Assistant (PA), I was lucky to be staying on campus with the previous PA nearby. We were able to meet in person, and I could visit the Ooligan office. However, I could only access the building that the office was in, and many services were closed down due to COVID safety protocols. Needless to say, there was much I didn’t know at the start of Fall term. But with every issue that arose, I dedicated myself to approaching the transition with honesty and plans to improve with each new in-person meeting.

The first thing I discovered is that it’s very difficult to recognize people in masks. The first day was especially difficult because everyone was in their rain gear. There were so many people I knew and cared about from our Zoom meetings, but I could not recognize them now that we all were in the same room and had masks on. For those without access to cameras during Zoom, I had to connect their full name to a masked face and their height. The best I could do was be honest, clear, and friendly as I apologized for not recognizing people.

Part of my role as a PA is to take attendance, so you can imagine how complicated it was to take attendance those first few days. When we were remote, I would record people as they came into the Zoom meeting, but now I had to account for students coming in from two different entrances and getting backed up through the door as they waited to sign in. Each week I reflected on what could have made attendance go smoother; now, I bring a jar full of pens and wipes to clean them with, and I put a “My Name Is: Alexandra (PA)” on my mask in case anyone else has the same problem I do.

The lecture hall where we have our meetings is large to allow for social distancing. Even though we’ve all gotten used to having to speak up in public while wearing a mask, it’s different than making sure you’re projecting your voice loud enough to be heard both through your mask and from the back of the lecture hall, especially if you’re a double-masker like I am! I still err on the side of being too quiet most of the time, but practice makes perfect.

There are also little things you discover that you’ve forgotten after learning behind a computer screen for a year. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to your materials being accessible every time you sit down at your desk to log in. Because of that, it’s easy to forget to pack all your things up at the end of class or to forget that you can’t just refill your water glass.

Despite the fact that there are many new things to learn and re-learn about being back in person, many things are the same. We still set meetings to hash things out. A lot of our documents are digital, so we can easily resume work once we’ve settled in. And our enthusiasm for publishing, of course, remains the core of our learning.

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