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Happy New Year! How Are You Preparing for Spring 2021?

https://www.chronicle.com/newsletter/teaching/2020-09-03

How are you preparing for the semester?

Welcome to 2021! I hope you all had a great holiday! I ended up contracting Covid, so I have not been recording recently. Thankfully, my symptoms were mild and I am excited for the new year! I think many of us are cautiously optimistic and hopeful about what 2021 could bring.

As we start January, consider this question-how prepared are you for the semester? You may have taught the same content in previous years, but how could you improve it this year? Have you switched to remote learning? If you switched to remote learning in Spring 2020, it was probably more of an emergent online teaching situation rather than a prepared and fully thought out plan. Now, you have some time left to prepare! Based on the resources listed at twopillspodcast.com, I have some areas to keep in mind as you plan for Spring 2021.

Clarity: Students and instructors have had to increase our flexibility over the past year. With changes in how students attend class, how we teach, and how we take students on rotations-there have been quite a few variations to adapt to. Clarity of due dates and expectations can only help during this time. In my experience, overcommunication and with a variety of methods can help students meet or exceed expectations. Have a calendar, syllabus, course platform, emails, and/or verbal reminders. While it may feel excessive, a specific type of communication is likely preferred for some students over another type. Encourage students to set alerts, reminders, and organize their calendars/planners at the beginning of the semester. If, and more likely when, we are to see changes to the way we teach or the way students attend class, I recommend over-communication and reminders of these changes as well.

Know your resources: Students continue to deal with stress related to our current environment. If you are checking in with them as an instructor, advisor, or preceptor, be sure to know who to refer them to if they are struggling personally or professionally. Universities have put a great deal of time and resources into these options and it is important for us to know how to best help students with them. Additionally, know the resources for you! Is your campus teaching and learning center offering courses or workshops for course design or professional development? A studio for video recording? These resources may take your teaching to the next level!

Reflection: What has gone well so far this year? How could you improve your courses? Maybe it’s the number and types of assessments? Maybe it’s the amount of prework that you assign (or don’t assign)? Maybe it’s setting calendar reminders throughout the semester to check in with your advisees? Is there a potential to translate your teaching into a scholarly work? There have been great studies recently evaluating types of wellness and mindfulness activities for students.

Now is the time to set yourself up for success! I am a big fan of quotes and we all know, and experienced in 2020, that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Einstein also said “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”. Have a wonderful start to 2021!