It’s a new academic year that hopefully comes with some fresh starts and a quarter without interruption. I hope summer was whatever you wanted it to be. Here’s some highlights from my summer:
The good: We spent a month in Washington state with family. I got to watch sunsets over the ocean with cocktails and a good book. Heaven.
The not-so-good: At long last, I got Covid. Luckily I wasn’t very sick but it happened during our time in Washington so we missed out on a good chunk of family time.
The bizarre: My mom holds onto everything, and for years she has held onto my childhood bedroom furniture despite no one having a need for it. My childhood furniture found a new home this summer – my mom donated it to the new brothel museum in Deadwood, South Dakota. No, I’m not joking. My parents live near by and are strangely excited about this brothel museum opening. So my furniture will now be part of the recreation of a prostitute’s bedroom. I’m not sure what this says about the aesthetic of my childhood furniture…I will happily provide photos once the museum is open.
But enough about brothels, let’s talk about teaching! The Chronicle of Higher Education was filled with articles this summer about how disengaged students were last spring, will the fall be better, and how to navigate teaching “post-pandemic.” But it remains to be seen if and how things will be different from spring. So what advice could I possibly add to the hurricane of pedagogical strategies? Nothing new really – I want to see how this quarter shakes out before I start sharing expertise. Instead, I will repeat advice from past posts:
- Be super, super clear about expectations, policies, and how to succeed in your course. Students should be reciting these in their sleep by the end of the first week.
- Wherever you can, use flexibility with guardrails. This means a bit of flexibility that still holds students accountable. It could be a 3-day grace period around deadlines or lowest quiz score dropped or a certain number of absences, no questions asked. This will reduce the number of emails you get about extensions, etc while also relieving some anxiety for students.
- I give you permission to prioritize your own wellbeing. Faculty have done so much over the last few years and so many of you are feeling burned out or frustrated. I encourage you to set boundaries with your students – it can be something like only answering emails during certain hours. I encourage you to do your best while acknowledging your best looks different from day to day. Some days just getting through lecture is the best you can do. Other days you’re a rock star who graded papers in one sitting. All of that is your best.
Speaking of faculty wellbeing, I am excited that Theresa Duong has joined DTEI as our pedagogical wellness specialist. I am a huge advocate for this type of position so stay tuned for more in this area. In the meantime, you can reach out to Theresa (email@example.com) if this is an area of your teaching you would like to discuss.
I’m also introducing a new feature on the blog called Ask a Faculty Developer. This is where faculty and staff can ask me teaching-related questions and I’ll answer them in the blog. Maybe you want to know how to make large classes more interactive, or perhaps you have questions about making your syllabus something students will actually read. All questions will be used anonymously, so you can either email them to me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or use this Google form. I look forward to your questions!
I am wishing everyone the best this quarter!
In other news…
What I’m currently reading: I read quite a bit this summer but one book stands out for those of you who like creepy books, or if you read my previous recommendation The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey. Her new book, Just Like Home, is the unpredictable story of Vera who has come home because her estranged mother is dying. Vera has to deal with the anger at her mother while missing her long-dead father, who was a kind, loving parent…and a serial killer…which Vera knew about. And it gets even weirder from there.
Songs from my introvert playlist: To get you pumped for the new quarter, I offer you Lizzo’s About Damn Time. Everything Lizzo does is gold and your mantra this year is “I’m way too fine to be this stressed.”