On Teaching During a Pandemic: Exploring Creativity

From a pre-pandemic, socially less distant time: Deborah Murray welcomed English alum Dr. Jana Zaudke (MA ’95) to ENGL 455 “Exploring Creativity” (April 2015), so Jana could share with students how creative practices infuse her medical practice and pedagogy.


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

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

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