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.

Post Mortem for Implementation of TIP for Fall 2020

In the spirit of self care, I am forgiving myself for the tardiness of this post. The work and day to day teaching/interaction this semester across all my courses has been much more intense than it was last spring. When this assignment hit my email, I was in the weeds dealing with with end of the semester (post Thanksgiving/pre-finals) “it’s getting real what my grade is” etc issues. So here we go… All in all, I was thinking it was a bit of a mixed bag, Of course, the culture and experience of each class is so different that you have to stay present and implement what is needed in the moment now more than ever. Bt here is a review of my planned goals.

1. Looking for and doubling up on positive (confidence building) warm up and connecting exercises – this was success to some degree – though more to the warm up – poor connection issues (wifi) and inability to see the whole class at one time (taking class on phone) created disparities that cut out a large array of exercises I had hoped to use.

2. Encouraging and assigning individuals to share music that is touching or inspirational to them. (Incorporating it in into our warm up for the day. ) This worked great for one class and was kind of a flop in my other.

3. Working twice the amount of time on community/ensemble building. See # 1 for result.

4. Having 1/2 the class rehearse while the the other half works scenes until the final showing of the scenes so all can see and support with positive feedback. So they have work time in class, instead of having to do all rehearsal outside of the class time.) This worked great across the board and helped give them a sense of community which is the hardest thing about virtual learning in regard to any theater or performing course. So big win here.

5. Emphasizing peer support (outside of class time) to foster community. Another big win.

6. Choosing material (and encouraging them to choose material) that is uplifting and fosters resiliency. This worked well.

7. Looking for ways to them to do their homework – off of technology – encouraging handwritten notes that can be photographed and uploaded. This worked too.

Looking back on it, I guess there was more positive to the plan and the outcomes than I figured. It was a VERY HARD semester, many students had Covid, and a couple had parents/grandparents who did not survive, more than a couple students struggle in major ways with their mental health and it was intense. I did my best to hold space for them without taking on their trauma- its hard we are all going through a lot.

I hope you all have happy and healthy holidays. Wishing you all the peace and rest you can get on winter break . Lori

Reflection on using Trauma-informed pedagogy in the classroom

I reviewed the plan that I put together before starting this semester, and the one thing I can say was that I followed the plan. I tried to build in flexibility, while at the same time making due dates explicit and issuing reminders. I held a check-in at the beginning of each class. I tried to allow for student choice. I also followed up individually with students who were falling behind using Blackboard and Connect2Success.

However, I am left feeling unsatisfied with how the experience went this semester. In most of my classes, students did not participate in the check-in. There were a few more outspoken students who always spoke, and trying to engage others more often than not resulted in “I’m OK.” It was demoralizing for me to speak to a blank Zoom screen, because I allowed students the option of turning on their cameras or not. Most chose not to turn on the cameras, and it made it difficult for me to connect. I made a Discussion Board on Blackboard that was meant to be fun and tried to start several discussions about cute animals or favorite music and got no responses from students.

In particular, I felt like there was little to be done for those students who really struggled. Some stopped responding to my emails, though they seemed to want to engage early in the semester. Others never really responded. Some sent me a cry for help saying “I am struggling” but did not respond to the next email that laid out some services that BMCC offered. In addition, I got little engagement from the Connect2Success. The students who got the Kudos flag replied with a thank you, but those who struggled didn’t really engage. I also didn’t get much from the advisors – an occasionally auto-generated email that said my flag was closed with no follow-up.

I know that much of this is because we are all struggling to stay afloat this semester. Trauma-informed pedagogy makes the classroom a more welcoming place, but does not solve the myriad structural issues that our students face. As much as we can point to services and try to bring students along, we hit a wall, and it makes me sad to see students unable or unwilling to take that step to ask for help. And even if they do, I can’t give them what they likely need – their basic needs and time and mental energy to focus on school work.

BLA Trauma-Informed Pedagogy Open Lab Community By Dr. Aradhana Kumari

I let my students know that I am always present when they need help. I dedicated seven days a week a time slot where I responded to my student’s email so that they can get help faster and do not fall behind. I held a zoom discussion meeting (which was optional and which many students attended) twice a week so that I can connect with my students and help them. I gave a lot of individual attention to each student. During these meetings, I did a meditation with my students for a few minutes, which they liked. I also posted the information about 10 minutes mind on the blackboard and asked my students to use this meditation tool.

I wrote the syllabus in such a way that it was easy to follow and has all the information( an example of how they can reach out to me, how they can get help with tutoring, and so on) they need in order to succeed, and then I made a video and I went over the syllabus and posted that on the blackboard. Many students said that it was very helpful. My students liked how I organized my blackboard with a well thought clear study plan for each day in order to succeed. They mentioned during the zoom discussion meeting that they really liked how well the study plan was written and it was easy for them to follow.

I posted all the information ( which I received from the student affairs) about where they can get help if they need tablets, chrome books, wifi, food, money, etc on the blackboard.

I made myself available after office hours. If students said that the only time she/he can meet or take an exam is at 9 PM I accepted their request. I did make many exceptions and accepted their late assignments. They needed this flexibility and I was willing to work with them. Overall I was very flexible and caring.

Reflection on incorporating trauma-informed pedagogical practices into my syllabus and/or course activities in Fall 2020

Having incorporated trauma-informed pedagogy into my courses in Fall 2020, I here reflect on what went well, and things I would like to revise going forward.

“Physical, Emotional, Social, & Academic Safety”

As I had mentioned in my first post, I included a section on “life happens” in the syllabus, and reviewed the supports available to students more than once during the semester. I also had my courses attend a workshop led by the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Health called, “Covid-19 Community Conversations: Mental Health, Equity, and Resilience.”

I also began using an app, “Remind,” that allowed me to text short and regular reminders to students about upcoming readings, assignments, and events. I also found that sending a reminder five minutes before the beginning of class helped improve attendance and reduced lateness. I have no idea if this was a coincidence, of course, but I will continue using it as long as I am teaching synchronously online. And I may even use it when and if we return to in-person class.

Trustworthiness & Transparency

I had intended, and did achieve the creation, review, and distribution of rubrics for all assignments for this semester. I had wanted to minimize confusion and disappointment in grading. I am unsure if I have succeeded in minimizing disappointment with grades, but I do see some improvement in assignments which the review of rubrics in advance may have facilitated. I will continue to do this going forward. I have also been transparent about delays in returning feedback, as some weeks my administrative duties got the better of me. One week, I was delayed with a pet who was unwell. I decide to just be honest about it, and I students reacted positively and with understanding to my dilemma.

Support & Connection

I wanted to use Connect2Success this semester, but as has happened in previous semesters, the timing of the app never coincides with my assignments and grading schedule. I know I can use it outside the times it is encouraged, but I do not know if it functions in the same way in those off-periods. I need to follow up to find out and/or consider revising some assignments to see if I can link up to the timing of the program in future semesters.

Collaboration & Mutuality

I found that using breakout rooms to encourage discussion amongst peers in my synchronous courses worked quite well. To keep track of discussion, I also used Google sheets which I filled with short questions that students answered together in the breakout rooms. We reviewed some of their answers together when we returned from breakout rooms, and this helped break the ice and inspired more participation as I asked people to report back on their discussion in those rooms.

Empowerment, Voice, & Choice

I encouraged students to take breaks as needed in my courses, and also encouraged them to speak with me to adjust deadlines when necessary.

Social Justice

We spent most of the semester on content directly related to social justice.

Resilience, Growth, & Change

I believe that the breaks in class helped us balance our attention.

11/9-30 Homework

Reflect on your plan to embed trauma informed pedagogical practices into your syllabus and course activities.  Please share the results of the implementation in the form of an audio recording, video recording, presentation, graphic, or written reflection.