Flex On, Flex Off

So your university or college administration has announced that they will be open for the Fall 2020 term and then sent you a bunch of links about course delivery models or instructional design to help you get started, huh?

Mmmmhmm.

You clicked on some of those links and, when they were actually live, you found the information there sort of like looking at the Grand Canyon. You looked at the route choices and decided to wait and see where others were heading. You looked down a bit and noticed one or two interesting points but it was all a little overwhelming. So, you just stopped. Maybe you got angry. Maybe you got frustrated. Maybe you wondered if your administration was just kidding hahaha.

But now you want to get ready and you want to know just how high is the flex?

Ok. Gotchu. If you were my friend and you asked me about getting ready for Fall 2020, our discussion would look somewhat like this.

  • Teach as much as you can without having face-to-face contact with learners.
  • Get a group of colleagues who want to do this and work together.
  • Make a list of assets you have and tech you use on a regular basis.
  • Tell me what students should be able to do when they finish your course.
  • Now tell me how you are going ask them to prove they can do these things.

PAUSE. Let’s talk about the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and classist issues that may prevent your students from being able to prove to you what they can do based on how you plan to ask them. PLAY.

  • Are you willing to ask students how they can show you that they have achieved the objectives of the course?
  • Are you willing to ask students to tell you how the course is going and what you could be doing better each week?
  • Are you willing to let them guide discussions and lead sessions?

UH OH. You may be feeling some discomfort. Maybe it seems like a lot to you. Maybe you start to wonder if you can actually do this. GOOD. That is how students feel when they start many of their courses. That empathy will help. So, keep it right there in front of you where you can see it.

  • Now go back to that TED Talk on GRIT.
  • Convince yourself to persevere.
  • Commit to growth mindset.
  • Feel your brain’s plasticity raising your can-do energy.

FREEZE. Stop your progress for a minimum of 10 minutes to simulate spotty internet service, a site that won’t load, captions that look like they were written in Klingon, filing a Title IX complaint, or watching a video of someone who looks *just*like*you* getting lynched. AND GO. What? You don’t think you can just jump right back in?

  • Save the synchronous discussions for actually talking with students about the world around them right now.
  • Listen to the learners. Are there 300 enrolled? Make smaller groups and provide guidance or host drop-in office hours to talk about the world.
  • Prepare yourself for Trauma Informed Teaching

BUT, TEE, THIS IS CRAZY. I know. You might feel like you stepped into a science fiction novel. This might be a new normal. “All this going on in the world today” is just so much. You are right but this isn’t new to today. Some teachers and learners have been dealing with trauma-laden inequitable educational contexts for generations.

  • Interrogate your teaching to see how it promotes equity and justice.
  • Plan to get right down to the roots. Yes, radical teaching.
  • Do not use the master’s tools to dismantle the house.

OH…I LOVE AUDRE LORDE. Great. But think about what that really means in the context of your course design and delivery. Here is an example: I know some folks who spent a small fortune preparing their children for the SAT or AP exams. And many of them did very well. But what happens when a test designed in biased assumptions with biased content is mastered by the very students it targets? The students begin to believe the horrific messages about themselves in the test’s hidden curriculum. They believe they got smarter by being closer to Eurocentric knowledge. They believe Beowulf is the default of worthy literature. They believe Geometry and even Algebra (despite its name) are the gifts of European ancestors. They internalize inferiority. This is NOT an achievement for any student. Don’t replicate this 150 year old tradition in your course.

  • Stay safe and put things into place that will help your students stay safe.
  • Resist the urge to load content and instead load opportunities.
  • Treat your students with compassionate care like the future depends on it.
  • Take care of yourself and establish a community ethic of self care.

On days when you feel a little lost, think about making it to the next day and then the next. And get a little Philly Soul motivation going to spark some inspiration.