Like teachers around the world, English Department faculty at Kansas State find ourselves having to rethink our approach to our classes in order to provide meaningful instruction.
I am missing the main thing that brings me joy in teaching: the real life presence of my students. I wanted to allay their anxiety and motivate them to continue to engage with the course material.
For my ENGL 455 “Exploring Creativity” students, I sent them the following email to introduce them to my low-tech approach to virtual instruction:
“To remind you that life (& creative exploration) goes on, even in uncertain times, I’ll be sending you a recommendation each day (M-F) by 9 a.m. These are activities/websites/podcasts/TED talks (the sort of thing I’d post on the visual presenter in the classroom) that I recommend. You can view/listen to/do something in response to these prompts and record your exploration in your journal. If you have a recommendation, send that to me to share with the group.”
I have maintained this practice of daily emails at least five days a week. I’ve gotten positive feedback from my students, including the following comment:
“I want to end this by saying thank you for giving us creative exercises every day, and for being the only teacher I have right now who is helping us every day. . . . Your class genuinely brought me joy and excitement, and I miss seeing you and my classmates. I hope all is well, or as well as it can be during this crazy time.”
Here are some of the “creatives” I’ve shared with my students so far:
Creatives: Comic Relief
- Offer a caption for this week’s New Yorker cartoon contest.
Creatives: “Tiny Habits are the Key to Behavioral Change”
- Review an episode of NPR’s “Life Kit” exploring how to change your habits and how to reinforce these changes by celebrating them (go ahead, pat yourself on the back!).
Creatives: Take Flight
- Watch a live feed of Sandhill Cranes on their river roost. (Note: the live feed is operational in the early morning hours, but there may be some file footage.)
Creatives: Get Good, Restful Sleep
- Here’s an album trailer for one of my favorite sleep aids, Max Richter’s 8-hr long “Sleep.”
This semester will definitely be memorable for all of us. Here’s hoping that my students and I get to reconnect in person — rather than virtually — soon.
— Deborah Murray, Instructor