November 2021

 8. November 2021


Good morning!


I'm out of the office this week attending the POD Network Annual Conference. Actually, I'm sitting at my desk in my home office, eagerly awaiting my first Zoom conference session.


One of the things I like most about POD is because we are a group of faculty developers, we try hard to practice what we preach. POD has a Special Interest Group (SIG) on Mindfulness and Contemplative Pedagogies -- who sent out a How to Conference, Intentionally infographic ahead of this week's meeting.


I've attached it to this week's CELT Notes because I think there are some great ideas that may be of help no matter our discipline or modality of our academic conferences this year. I think it is also important background for this week's topic -- Mental Health.


Below is an announcement for this week's Mental Health Monday (on Zoom), some advice for supporting students, and also ourselves.


Mental Health Monday - Mental Health Trends at Luther and Nationally - TODAY, Monday November 8 at 4 pm. ZOOM


Join Meg Hammes for more discussion of Mental Health Trends at Luther and across the nation. We'll have time for discussion and questions. This session will be on Zoom. Please register here to receive the link.


What is Coddling vs. What is Supporting? What should we do? 

Meg and I met on Friday to talk about how best to support faculty in supporting our students. As a faculty member, I often feel torn between wanting to support students and worrying that in being flexible I might not be doing them a favor when they leave Luther and enter the "real world". I asked Meg for advice and here is what she had to say:


In Counseling Services, "we work to reframe this, school is not the real world. In the real world folks have flexibility, moving timelines, one or two big projects at a time, not several that include the intensity of academic work, they are not college athletes, involved in choir, rehearsals etc.  In the real world folks get vacation days, sick days, bereavement leave etc.  In the real world you are not working for a grade or feedback at the level students are. The financial implications are much different as well."


To be frank, never in over a decade of teaching have I thought about this in this way. My conversation with Meg fundamentally shifted the way that I've been thinking about the college environment and I'm now looking forward to transforming my spring courses to allow flexibility, but maintain rigor, and hopefully support student mental health. 


Here are a couple of quick structural things you might consider:

  • Normalize the Need for Help - check in with individual students you are concerned about, connect them to campus resources, share a story about when you needed help in school, if you feel comfortable. Doing so is a powerful way to show students that seeking help is a sign of strength.
  • Attendance flexibility -- allowing students a number of "PTO days" sets expectations that students take responsibility for their attendance, assisting them to identify priorities, including self care and mental/physical health. You can also choose to not count attendance towards a final grade for a similar result.
  • Embed Courses with Well-Being Practices - assign self-care as homework, take two-minutes mindful breathing breaks, start class with a private writing prompt asking students to reflect on one thing they did in the past week that they were proud of.

But what about us?

I hear sometimes the very real concern from faculty that they want to help students, they recognize we have a mental health crisis here in America, but that it's all just too much.


Remember: we are not trained mental health experts. We are helpers, not clinicians.


Listening compassionately to students can help "create caring campus communities and productive learning environments that help students thrive and, when needed, seek professional help." (Active Minds- Faculty Resource, attached)


Part of that work means we have to take care of ourselves too. Active Minds reminds us all 

  • It's okay to not always be available. You cannot and do not need to operate 24-hours a day. 
  • It's okay to say "no" and set boundaries when needed. Pause and reflect before responding to a request and discern when to say yes and when to say no. 
  • It is imperative that we prioritize our own well-being. 
  • Consider taking a 1:0-minute sabbatical every day. Reflect on what sustains you. Honor your own solitude and silence. Take a break from your devices and experience nature and connect to the world beyond yourself and your work."


Remember too, the TAO resources from Counseling Service are available to you also.


Best to you all on this Monday morning. I look forward to sharing more insights with you all from this year's POD meeting!





 1. November 2021


Good morning!


Not going to lie, I have a bit of a sugar hangover this morning and it was really difficult to get up and out of the house today.


Maybe that's why I have been kind of at a loss as to what would be helpful to share with you all at this point in the semester -- so after wandering the Valders/Sam Hoff buildings I finally asked a colleague what would be most helpful. He half-jokingly and half-seriously answered, "I need space and I need time."


Maybe that's all of us. Certainly feels like what I need today.


So I'll keep it short in hopes of buying you all a little bit of time. Below are notices for upcoming CELT events, information on our new Take 10 to Talk about Teaching initiative, and a next round of Inclusive Teaching Tips.


Now I'm going to brew myself another pot of coffee and see if I can kickstart this day.


Upcoming CELT Events


Lunch and Learn: How to Design Learning Goals - Tuesday, November 2 (12 to 1:30 pm) Valders 240 - CELT


If you've been paying attention to the curriculum reform conversations over the past year or so, you've heard the term -- Learning Goals, or Learning Objectives -- used in a variety of contexts.


This workshop will present a common definition of learning goals and discuss how setting these goals of where or how we want our students to be after our assignments, our courses, or after four-years at Luther College can assist in our course preparation. Participants will practice writing learning goals for their own J-term or Spring 2022 courses.


The Lunch and Learn series begins with a social hour from 12 to 12:30. The program begins at 12:30. Come when you can! Please Register HERE.


Mental Health Monday: Mental Health Trends at Luther and Nationally - Monday, November 8 (4:00 to 5:00 pm) Valders 242 - CELT Conference room


Join your colleagues from Counseling Services to dig deeper into the data presented by Meg Hammes and Janet Hunter at last month's Full Faculty meeting. What ARE the mental health trends among American college students? How does Luther measure up? What can we do to support students with mental health issues on our campus?


Take 10 to Talk Teaching


In the July 15th Teaching Newsletter in The Chronicle, Becky Supiano referenced an interview between Flower Darby and James Lange (big names in the world of faculty development). In that interview, Lange and Darby discussed how professors often feel like teaching is an isolating activity. In many of our departments, colleagues only see us teach when we are up for tenure and promotion. We have only rare opportunities to discuss our teaching with others. Darby asked an important question, "What if every department meeting agenda blocked off just 10 minutes to talk about teaching?"  Supiano discusses one Political Science department who took Darby's advice - highlighting the impact it had on the department's teaching during disrupted times.


What would happen if we did the same? You might talk about teaching troubles and successes, relate what's working in this strange semester, and what's not. Maybe you all have a common problem. Maybe someone in your department has a solution for you.


I'm always happy to take ten with departments individually -- feel free to email me and I'll try to get your department meeting on my calendar.


Inclusive Teaching Principle No. 1 - Inclusive teaching is a mind-set.


In the next few CELT Notes, I plan to highlight some principles of Inclusive Teaching, paraphrasing a helpful guide by Viji Sathy and Kelly Hogan.


No matter where you are in this work -- these principles will help us live up to the idea that good college teaching involves delivering our discipline-specific content, but also helping students learn. And, to quote Sathy and Hogan, "not just some students." All of our students. "The changing demographics of higher education mean that undergraduates come to you with a wide variety of experiences, cultures, abilities, skills, and personalities. You have an opportunity to take that mix and produce a diverse set of thinkers and problem-solvers." I appreciate that phrasing as it reminds us that increased diversity in our classrooms is an opportunity, rather than a liability.


The first principle is Inclusive Teaching is a Mind-set. I like this principle because it reminds us that there is no magic wand we can pass over our courses to make them inclusive. Inclusive teaching is a reflective practice that is never done. To shift into thinking of inclusive teaching as a mind-set, Sathy and Hogan write, "For every teaching decision you make, ask yourself, "Who is being left out as a result of this approach?" That question will help keep inclusive pedagogy at the forefront of your mind.


For example, lecturing sometimes gets a bad rap, but a well-designed lecture can be an engaging way to teach content. One thing we know, however, is that students "vary in their ability to stay focused, pull out key ideas, and organize the information" we offer in a lecture. Sathy and Hogan ask, "Is it “hand-holding” to provide a skeletal outline of your lecture in advance? Critics might think so. But the result is that all students leave class with a set of minimal notes, a clearer idea of the main points, and an expert’s example of how ideas fit and flow together. And in the process, your students now have a good structure for how to take notes." Got other ideas? Send them my way!


Hope to see you all NEXT Friday at our next Community Social Hour. In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine.