Learning Council Offers Encouragement

By John Niss, Professor, Mathematics

Learning Council met on Thursday, March 26, 2020, despite the unusual circumstances. We used an abbreviated format on Zoom as an informal way to stay connected, offer support and congratulations and to celebrate what we have learned in the last weeks. The meeting was also “opt-in,” as we understood that council members may have needed to attend to time-sensitive college business.

It turns out that much of what our peers are learning is about themselves and their families. We heard about a young boy at home who is much more independent than either mom or dad suspected. We learned which of our Learning Council’s members have moved their office onto a porch or patio because that is the only quiet place in the house. We met some pets. Members shared thoughts and techniques to try to be sure that those of us who are supervisors are keeping a reasonable work/life balance in a totally unreasonable situation. We urged members to take their own advice about a reasonable work/life balance.

In the area of congratulations, Learning Council member Wendi Dew, assistant vice president, teaching and learning, was singled out for the incredible job that she and her team have done supporting faculty in this radical shift to an online format. The level of organization and dedication that their efforts illustrate was heartily commended.

Another member to be singled out was Karen Reilly, dean, learning support, who, along with the other deans of learning support, their staffs and the Office of Information Technology have created an online tutoring system as if by magic in an incredibly short period of time. Not only does this system support our students who are in serious need of online help in their courses, it also creates a way for our tutors to work from home.

As a final note, with an “agenda” that included no decisions to make and no problems to solve, the meeting was particularly successful in attaining its support group-like goals of providing time to catch up with each other, vent a bit and offer one another any support possible. We acknowledged that we’ve been in firefighting mode since the middle of spring break, and each appreciated the opportunity to share, to listen and to affirm. The main lesson we learned: Let’s try to be conscious of creating space for the more mundane, human interactions that so many of us are missing at the moment.

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