Sunday, March 22, 2020

Canvas Discussion Topic: Social Interaction in a Time of Social Distancing

I'm teaching Social Psychology this semester. I set up a discussion in Canvas yesterday that's optional for students and isn't being graded. I want students to be able to share insights about their experiences in a time of social change. I'm hoping it provides a little feeling of community now that we're not in class together in person anymore. Here's what I posted on Canvas in case you want to borrow/adapt/improve it…


This is a totally optional discussion, it's not being graded. Because our course is all about social interaction, I want to give students opportunities to share insights and experiences about how social interactions have changed due to social distancing expectations. It's wild to me that the term "social distancing" wasn't even in the public's vocabulary until about a week ago. Even if we are closely following social distancing guidelines, we still have many ways to interact. So feel free to use this space as a place to mention examples about social interaction these days, and to share any insights or thoughts you have. I'll start....

I find myself texting people more than usual, and I'm using FaceTime to interact with my parents. At my house our family is playing board games, watching movies, and we even played Wii Bowling a few nights ago like we used to when our kids were little. We're also taking walks together to get exercise. My 9-year-old is obsessed with baseball and I love baseball too, so we're playing a lot of catch together and frankly it's good for my mental health. I actually came up with the idea of doing this discussion as a class when we were playing catch together an hour ago.

I wonder how social distancing is impacting our relationships, and I wonder if people will begin to be socially shamed if they aren't practicing social distancing. And I seriously wonder about our mental health as a society if our interactions are limited for an extended period of time. So many unknowns...

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Jettison Your Perfectionist Tendencies

My saying at the moment is "Not trying to break records during a pandemic." In touching base with students yesterday, this is part of what I posted in an announcement on Canvas:

"I remain focused on being flexible and doing my best to adapt to changing circumstances, and the goal remains to complete the course. Let's be honest: we don't know what may change and catch us by surprise, so let's stay flexible and manage our expectations. My saying at the moment is "Not trying to break records during the pandemic" which is my way of saying let's keep things simple and straightforward during these stressful and challenging times. I don't want to pile a ton of work onto my students and overwhelm them. I don't want to heighten anyone's stress or anxiety. And so the mission is to finish the course with integrity, but not trying to be special or "extra" about it."

I also wrote:

"I'll be flexible and lenient with due dates. These are stressful times; yes, I want us to learn, but I'm keeping things in perspective. I love sociology and our course work is valuable, but the much more important thing is our safety, health, and well-being."

I'm picturing my most overwhelmed student with the least amount of access to technology, and going from there.

This morning I recalled something I wrote with Peter Kaufman many years ago. It was a short piece about navigating the path from tenure-track to tenure. One of our tips was to "Jettison your perfectionist tendencies." Peter wrote that tip. I know that because "jettison" wasn't in my vocabulary, lol. I think the advice applies to teaching right now. I don't think we should feel pressure to be all-stars in this moment. I care deeply about teaching and learning but I'm fighting back my perfectionist inclinations and keeping things in perspective. We're all adjusting to rapidly changing circumstances and struggling to comprehend what's happening and wondering if in fact things might not "go back to normal." My plan is to not overdo it in the teaching realm, to make the workload very manageable for students, and to be extremely lenient and accommodating. I'd rather be known as someone who "went too easy on students" than someone who dumped work on them and added to their stress and anxiety.