The Snow Is Over But The Semester Is Still On: Last Days Matter

Our February 24th blog post talked about the importance of not losing faith in our students and in ourselves given all the snowstorms. In addition to all the snow, students and teachers endured cabin fever, tested our resilience, coped with various forms of emotional distress. It is now mid-April and we are bravely asserting that spring has arrived. Indeed, spring is finally here and so is the end of this unusually difficult Spring 2015 semester.

In this blog, thankfully free of thoughts of snow, we offer some tips for closing this semester with dignity and good feelings about ourselves, our jobs, and our students. Hopefully these suggestions will allow you, in the remaining weeks of this arduous semester, to maintain and reflect on the quality learning experience you provided despite your doubled work load of rescheduling and redesigning classes, while keeping students engaged and encouraging them to continue to complete their assignments.

During our March “Let’s Talk Teaching” (LTT) lunch, the attendees engaged in discussion about intriguing topics that included:

  1. how to make up the valuable in-class time during the numerous cancellations at the beginning of the semester,
  2. how to most effectively deal with the fact that students still, at this point of the semester, have difficulty connecting to the subject matter and to one another.

Regarding 1.: those present utilized Canvas for discussion, lectures, or for presenting various class materials on the day(s) of cancellation. As the discussion progressed, issue 2. emerged as the more pressing question – how to reach out to students who had lost connection to, and even interest in, classes that had not met or met intermittently? How to avoid taking this malaise personally, to teach students who were suffering from post-snowstorm traumatic syndrome in and outside of class, and how to address this reality head on?

As one contributor to this discussion put it, due to snow days during the first weeks of the semester, the essential establishment of social bonds between the teacher and students was inhibited. Consequently, students and many teachers now have deal with the after-effects of the lack of connection, from now until the end of the semester.

The main question that the March LTT discussion inspired was: Can we – at this point in the semester – establish a connection between our students and us? The shared perception and answer is yes. Even now it is still not too late. Your students need you more than ever at this point of the semester. Try to make up for the lost social bonding time by using any or of the following tips:

  1. Use icebreakers, such as what’s your favorite color, snack food, TV show, or movie, etc.
  2. Use small group/teams (maximum 4-5 students) for class learning activities and reserve 3-5 minutes at the start of each learning activity for students to get to know each other. (Our next blog and LTT will discuss group/team learning activities).
  3. Give your students specific written or/and oral feedback on their work that starts with constructive and positive commentary.
  4. Listen attentively to what they are and are not saying. Identifying and alleviating their end of semester anxiety will go a long way.
  5. Acknowledge their contributions and progress and affirm that their work matters in class and beyond (orally and/or in writing)
  6. Remind students of your office hours and encourage them to drop in or make an appointment with you. You also can schedule appointments with your students.
  7. Remember to breathe, smile, and be relaxed.
  8. Don’t complain about make-up classes to students.
  9. Remind them that attendance is important; it is their responsibility to come to class and be prepared as attendance is a critical component of meeting the requisite in class contact hours.

Soon Spring Semester 2015 will be a memory! If you have any misgivings about your teaching experience this semester, if you feel disconnected from your students, or if you or your students are not happy with the classroom dynamics for any reasons, please comment on our blog, come to our events, or contact one of us to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

CITL Ambassadors

Our next LTT lunch is on Thursday, April 23 from 12-1pm.


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