For relevant background for this blog post – check out previous posts.
I have always loved teaching. I truly relish working with students to guide them in discovering something new and achieving the fluidity to make it their own. Of course, I also learn an immense amount in the process, which I really enjoy too (well, most of the time). Nevertheless, it’s often exhausting and always extremely time consuming, no matter the environment. Over the years, I’ve taught family and adult literacy (Providence, RI), second grade (Compton, CA), and undergraduate and graduate-level courses (across Greater Boston). When the COVID19 pandemic became reality in the United States in March 2020, I was gratefully not teaching any courses that term. Suddenly though, I was supporting colleagues who were teaching while I rearranged my kitchen to be a classroom for our second grade twins. Asynchronous was part of my new lexicon.
By the time I had to get in front of a virtual classroom, I was lucky enough to cull the insight of my own kids as well as many colleagues. 8-year-olds were surprisingly perceptive when it came to what it’s like to be a virtual student. Thankfully, I was also working with a Teaching Assistant who had helped another Professor through the sudden transition the Spring before. Her perspective was instrumental in getting us ready for what I had always said no to previously: teaching online.
Over the course of this “COVID19 Academic Year”, I taught multiple graduate-level courses ranging from health literacy to the design of social experiments to a doctoral seminar. In the Fall, I diligently prepared these courses, and in the Spring, I had to quickly shift to teaching when a dear colleague had to go on medical leave. Either way, I learned a great deal about enhancing community in the classroom in the virtual setting. I carry most of these lessons forward as I prepare to teach in-person this Fall.
While I had always been focused on who was in my classroom, simultaneously bolstering the strengths of us as a group, there was a new urgency to creatively fill in the gaps of the remote environment. Gone were the casual interactions as students waited for class to begin. The waves to familiar faces in the hallways. The unplanned lunch discussions. The camaraderie on late nights in the computer lab. The casual encounters with faculty. Many of these notes have long been tenets of my teaching, and some are new. Nonetheless, they all helped to build classroom community in our strange new world – and I believe will serve us in the future, whether remotely, in-person, or hybrid. Engaging Health Equity requires rigorously tending to community-building in the places we work and learn.
Before the Course Began:
Virtual, Live Meet & Greets (Password Protected Zoom Meetings)
Asynchronous Get-To-Know-You Videos (Private Online Course Portal)
During the Course:
Live Class Time
Outside of Class Time
Using the Course Portal
Asynchronous Students – specific attention
Students Shared the Following Aspects that Most Resonated
Lessons Learned (Highlights!):
A Few Related Resources:
Harvard University’s Teach Remotely
Brown University’s Teaching & Learning Resources
University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, Promoting Equity in the Classroom
University of Michigan, Inclusive Teaching Resources & Strategies
Collaborative for Academic, Social & Emotional Learning
bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress, Education as the Practice of Freedom
bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope
Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed