How Are You Really Doing?

The title of today’s post comes from the workshop I attended last week which discussed how faculty and staff are doing mentally and as well as how their wellbeing is while working remotely during a pandemic.

It was an interesting workshop because we were able to express how we are doing and feeling. In the small group that I was in the main theme of the discussion was anxiety, stress, and adjusting to being home all of the time. On the positive side my other two members talked about how they feel that education and learning as well as the way we work is changing. That what the pandemic showed us was that we don’t need to be chained to our desks or classrooms and that we can do as good of a job if not better with a more flexible work schedule as we did when we work 100% on campus. It showed us different way of living and working. One that allows as to balance our lives better. Being able to go to campus once a week to teach and touch base with the students instead of 2 or 3 times a week is a big change. Of course, I have been saying this for years and have been talking about hybrid courses and the benefits that come with this type of teaching mode.

Even the staff that I spoke to were hoping to go to campus as they had missed interacting with colleagues and students, but also hoped be able to stay home a couple of days a week and use zoom to communicate with faculty, staff, and students. They felt that it offered a better way to balance work and home life especially for people raising children. Once we finished the small group discussion, we all came together again and talked about what themes came up. Which you can see above in the word cloud I created.

The other thing that surprised me was that the majority of the faculty and staff were women. I guess I shouldn’t be as women tend to be more in touch with their feelings and emotions. Having said that you would think that we would take care of ourselves better and yet as most of the women there admitted (me included) that they put themselves last on their daily to do list. As mothers, wives, and educators, most women make sure that everyone else’s needs are taken care of before they even get to the point where they can take care of themselves or ask for help. Giving ourselves permission to look after oneself is important in order to take care of everyone else. As well as learning that it’s ok to ask for help.

Overall, the workshop ended on a positive note with the promise to continue the discussion and inform the university about how we are feeling and doing. I see this as first step towards good mental health and overall wellbeing as well as bringing the university into the conversation.

So how are you feeling today?

Katherine

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In-Class, Online, Hybrid, and Remote Teaching. Which is better?

I have been teaching for about 25 years at this point and I have taught in class, online, hybrid and remote classes. At this point, I have been teaching online, in-class, and hybrid courses for over 10 years, but I hadn’t taught a remote class, however because of the pandemic and Covid-19 I had the opportunity to teach remotely for a year. This gave the opportunity to reflect and realize that I don’t actually like teaching all modes of teaching.

Until 2010 I predominately had been teaching in a classroom. From the beginning of my teaching career and until the early 2000s I didn’t know that there could be a different way of teaching, but once I began teaching at UMB I discovered online teaching, not because the university was offering online courses at the time, but there was a lot of talk about online and online education. And well, that was pretty much it.

So, I began looking around and searching the internet in order to understand what that meant and wrap my head around it. I have to admit that because online education was in its infancy there wasn’t much out there at the time. Long story short I was able to begin teaching a version of a hybrid course (which had no name at the time) in 2007 and I was the only faculty in my department to do so. I was the odd one for a while as the only NTT (Non Tenure Track Faculty) that wanted to teach using online tools. I really thought that teaching online could eventually be a big deal and I wanted to learn early so I dived in. By 2010 I was creating and teaching my first online courses and that was so much fun and exciting for me because I was able to push education and learning to a different level. It also offered a lot of flexibility as far as not having to be stuck physically in the classroom. As a result, I ended up teaching exclusively online courses for 6 years and it was an interesting time for me as it gave me the opportunity to complete a second master’s degree in Instructional Design and raise my infant son.

In 2017 I was asked to come back to the university and teach in the classroom and as much as I love teaching face-to- face I did not want to give up my online teaching practice. So, decided to go full circle and teach a course that combined both online and in-class teaching techniques and tools, i.e., a hybrid course

and that is the way I taught until March 2020 when the whole world turned upside down and the majority of educators in the US ended up teaching remotely. We all thought that this way of teaching could work but it doesn’t really work because you get on Zoom and most of the students don’t like to show up at all unless you make it part of their grade, their cameras off, they don’t participate, and I ended up trying to teach or have discussion looking at black screen with students’ names on it. This ended up being a super difficult way to teach because no one was participating, and I didn’t know if students were even listening to me. It kind of felt like when I first started teaching English as Foreign language in Greece and as I spoke my little 2nd grade students did understand what I was talking about and just stared at me. Of course, after a year of teaching remotely I have managed to teach using Zoom, but it was my least favorite way to impart knowledge.

If I had to choose my favorite way to teach is the hybrid course, were I get to see my students in class once or twice a week and then the rest of the work is completed online. I love it because it combines both my strengths, in class discussion and personal communication with my students and online which allows me to use tool like Videoscribe by Sparkol to create e-learning videos and free material for my students to practice their grammar as well as expand their knowledge so much more that I could in a traditional classroom.

Katherine

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The Importance of Reading

Last week I had a chat with my nephew who is a grad student studying history and I found myself talking about what I like to call, reading stamina. Like most things reading is a skill and we all learn how to read as children, but no one ever talks about how exhausting reading can be, unless you are in the humanities like a literature, history, or philosophy major especially in grad school. The good thing about reading is that it is a buildable skill the more you read the easier it gets.

 So that conversation got me to thinking about my students and how little they actually read. Of course most of us love to spend time online because it is easier especially after a long day. It seems that the more we use the internet and stay connected on social networks and the like, the less we enjoy reading for extended periods of time. As great as the internet is it is also extremely addicting because it offers a lot of easy content 24/7. Add the instant accessibility to everything from Instagram to streaming the newly released movie on our smart phone. Many of us end up going down the rabbit hole of watching Instagram stories or Tiktok videos for a couple of hours thinking we only spent 20 minutes on it. So where do we go from here?

Whether students like to admit it or not, reading is extremely important to the development of their thinking and critical skills. How do we get students not just to read their textbooks, but also learn to love books and reading? This love of reading can be developed as an adult, but it can take a lot longer to develop that habit because of all of the distractions around us. It really should begin in elementary school. It only takes a couple of really good ELA teachers to help create the foundation for a reading habit to grow along with the help of a parent that is willing to emulate the activity and show the child that there is in fact just as much joy and excitement that s/he can get from a book as they can from a video game. I know it sounds like a stretch to suggest that both reading and gaming can bring the same the amount of pleasure and happiness, but it’s true. It is a matter of mind set. Now I am not going to talk about reading strategies because if you google them hundreds of posts are going to appear.

What I am going to talk about is how I turned my child into reader. Before I begin let me tell you that he is an active child who plays the trumpet, guitar, bikes, skateboards, is on a swim team, and also loves playing video games on his Nintendo switch, so it is not like all he does is read. Having said that, when he was young and couldn’t read well, I started by trying to figure out what kind of books a little boy would like to listen to especially once he started kindergarten. So, I took him to the local library as well as the bookstore and let him pick his own books and then we took them home and every night I read for at least 30 minutes. In the beginning he couldn’t settle down long enough to listen to me read more than a few sentences, but slowly he got use to me reading and he started listening. It came to a point that he would ask me to read and to this day, even though he is in the 5th grade of elementary school he still asks me to read to him. Of course, now a days he mostly reads on his own. Reading has become part of his day, so he continues to read every night even if it is summertime. These days his reading stamina has increased to the point that he reads books like Percy Jackson, Land of Stories, and the Chronicles of Narnia.

So, to answer how does one develop reading stamina, well it is kind of obvious, don’t you think? Read. Read anything that you think you would like and start slow but read every day. Make it a habit. Something you look forward to at the end of a long day.  

Katherine

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