Do as I Say…

…not as I do? Oopsie! The other day, I tweeted about the current mental health crisis among students, likely to be made worse by a pandemic, and added the url for JMU’s Counseling Center, which is still open and doing amazing work with students. And then I forgot to talk about it in my welcome-back video to the class. So today, I added the following to the course front page in Canvas, our LMS:

Spring 2020. It’s going to be a fabulöses semester! [this was part of the page from the beginning of the semester]

… and it has become a wild ride. We’re online now, folks!

Crowley (Good Omens) says "Can I hear a 'wahoo'?"
Now, seriously, this has been an unexpected and worrying turn of event. You had not planned to take an online course, and I had not planned to teach one. So let’s all acknowledge that the next month will probably be a bit chaotic, and we will need to improvise a little. Add to that the stresses caused by a pandemic going around that may affect friends and family as well as ourselves. At points during the next month, we may all feel overwhelmed by what is going on and what we have to get done. If this is the case with you, please talk to me. We will figure out how to provide you with some breathing room that allows you to be successful in this class.

Canvas course site

I’ll say something in Wednesday’s video as well. There has been quite a bit of annoyance among JMU faculty that crowds of students showed up in downtown Harrisonburg over the weekend to party and go to bars, putting the community at risk. As a result, I emphasized the importance of social distancing in my first video; students need to understand that this is important. But at the same time we have to recognize that not all students view the crisis as an extended spring break, and that some are likely to be in crisis mode. And going out for drinks may very well be a way to try to forget something one is afraid of…

When I was looking for the Crowley gif, I came across the following, somehow more appropriate, option. I decided against it, prudently, though it fits my mood:

Aziraphale (Good Omens) says "Welcome to the end times"

Two articles that I found interesting and useful: Alexandra Milsom, in Inside Higher Ed, wisely counsels not to overdo things and recommends a type of technological simplicity that’s still full of good ideas. I might steal some for my class, such as the “clubhouse forum.” We are now not only teaching whatever we’re teaching but are also in charge of building online community in a time when students badly need it. The other piece arrived by email: Cassandra Sardo’s and Justin York’s Faculty Focus article on student autonomy in discussion boards—a welcome reminder of some ways to avoid the “write a post and respond to two others” approach to discussion boards.

My little brother suggested that yesterday’s welcome video looks like from Die Sendung mit der Maus, a German children’s show that combines cartoons (of a mouse, surprisingly) with educational films about how things are done. Well, then!

Not many reasons to be cheerful these days. One thing that helped was a flashback to a 1990s Japanese band, Pizzicato Five. My favorite album by them is fittingly called Happy End of the World. Cheers!

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