Fall 2020 Reflections

This semester I have been able to successfully implement several practices from the Trauma-Informed Pedagogy seminar in my Speech 100 class. My goal was to focus on Principle 4: Collaboration and Mutuality (Carello, 2014). Building a strong community in an online course is a challenge for any subject, but for Speech it is extra challenging simply due to the nature of the material. So much of what we teach in Public Speaking – things like eye contact, analyzing the audience, nonverbal skills, etc. are by their nature difficult to replicate in an online environment.

By building a strong community within the class through collaboration I was hoping to promote student engagement. The main way that I tried to do this was through the Discussion Boards. Every week students were required to post a reply to a prompt and then within two days they needed to read and respond to at least two other classmates. At first it was difficult because they didn’t know each other and responses were generic. Through feedback and clear structure – emphasizing that I was not grading on content, or looking for a specific type of response, students were free to respond however they wished –  I was able to get most students to respond more authentically and with more detail. Giving students agency is key to promoting engagement. By giving students more general prompts and the freedom to choose speech topics and areas of research, I feel that this promoted engagement. 

Other practices that I implemented were diligently using Connect2Success. I am not a fan of this system but it was another way that I used to try and reach students who weren’t participating. This was in addition to greatly expanding my office hours, I met with students whenever was convenient for them and I was much more lenient and understanding with lateness. I think flexibility is the key word and I like to think that I was very flexible and put into practice what was written in my syllabus about “life happening” and ways to reach out for support.

Thought Provoking Lessons Learned

I have always considered myself to be an empathetic teacher. I feel that my students also see me as empathetic and caring. Perhaps too much so! I recall at the end of one semester, I asked students for their feedback on the course – What did they like? What did they think overall? I’ll never forget how one student, Isaiah, said, “Professor, you’re too nice!” I know this about myself, that I will always be forgiving and lenient and err on the side of the student. Teaching at BMCC has taught me that many of our students come from a wide-range of circumstances that may impede their education, I see myself as someone who should encourage and facilitate, not make things more difficult for students. 

So while I am VERY happy to be a part of this workshop, many of the strategies that we learned are things that I do anyway. Things like inclusive pedagogy – which I have made a point of doing since taking an Intersectionality seminar last year. I strive to make sure that I am using inclusive language, encourage my students to think critically and examine their biases and assumptions, and use diverse examples in my lectures. Also, using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a framework and focusing on activities/assignments that promote reflection and critical thinking and not just regurgitation for a test. 

One thing that I would like to work on during the Fall 2020 semester is building a stronger community in my asynchronous classes. As most professors do, I rely on Discussion Board assignments to create the sense of community in my online classes. I need to rethink my Discussion Board assignments so that students are more engaged when responding to each other. Principle 4: Collaboration and Mutuality (Carello, 2014) would be a good place to start with this. 

Overall, I have to say that this workshop has been extremely beneficial to me as a person. The SCEER framework was revelatory to me because of the most important principle of trauma-informed pedagogy: self care. While this is a concept that is seemingly obvious, it is one that I definitely overlook. I’m not sure if it’s because I am a mother, and it has become automatic for me to put myself last, or if there is another reason. However, during our first Zoom session, I was struck by the obvious –  that we ALL have trauma. Just because we are present and engaged does not mean that it doesn’t exist or that it is healed. The trauma is there and it manifests differently. The importance of recognizing this in our students also is paramount. Just because they are present and participating one day, doesn’t mean that the next day they will be able to engage with the same enthusiasm.