As the pandemic rounds the one-year mark, MCC’s professors continue to deal with everything from learning innovative ways to teach students virtually, to the shift in working from home. They are our professors, like hubs of knowledge pointing each student toward their future, but more than anything, they are human like us, living amidst a worldwide pandemic. How has their teaching changed, what kind of innovations have they employed, and what has online teaching been like for them? Among those questions and more, these are their answers.
A man of family and faith, Daniel Meyers – Chair of Arts and Humanities, Chair of the Technology Department, Chair of Achievement Based Scholarships, Director of Music, and full-time professor at MCC, has come into contact with nearly every person at MCC. During the last year, Meyers has become well aware of the specific challenges the Arts and Humanities face. “If we take pottery or drawing, or painting, that has posed an extra challenge because of the equipment. You can’t make a pot if you don’t have your own wheel,” he quipped.
Without the proper equipment students have found ways of getting creative. “We’ve learned to do things in different ways,” noted Meyers. “We’ve learned to make these virtual concerts; we’ve learned to do virtual plays… Next year if we are back doing regular rehearsals, we’re still going to do a piece of music like this virtually, because it forces us to learn something new, to do something new,” said Meyers with passion in his voice. “If we want to continue to exist, we have to adapt!”
The Arts and Humanities may have had a rough go at the beginning, but the pandemic can’t stop creativity from overcoming challenges such as getting the choir to sing over Zoom or putting on a virtual band performance. Meyers is hopeful about the progress being made so far, despite the pandemic. “Rather than a roadblock, it is a chance for something new and exciting,” he noted. “The Arts, what we do, makes us whole people, makes us human. It gives us beauty in life. That’s what the Arts and Humanities do,” Meyers added. No matter the challenge, the Arts and Humanities will find a way through the cracks.
MCC Professor and Coordinator of Teaching and Learning Linda Hood is a lover of sci-fi novels and has traveled around the world; she teaches a college success course for students and more. To her, teaching is guided by the student.
“Every student is precious,” noted Hood. “Every faculty person represents a precious student. To me, everything we do is guided by the needs of our students.” In the classroom, Hood knows how scary it can be to speak up, so she has come up with a way to engage students, making it easier to be vulnerable to ask a question. “When I teach, whether it’s students or faculty, I always say, ‘I want everybody to ask me two questions about what we did today,’ and then their questions just pour out.”
MCC Professor and Production Blackboard Administrator Barbara Landes loves to wind down by solving puzzles and reading cozy British murder mysteries; but, despite being a lover of technology, at first, Landes wasn’t on board with distance learning. When the pandemic hit, however, because of her health, she went completely online. Landes took courses to learn how to teach in an online environment, and she gleaned a new teaching philosophy. “In my philosophy, whatever you’re doing face to face is done virtually with a few tweaks.” She cites one of the “tweaks” as breakout rooms rather than going into the whole group. With class using Zoom, Landes said, “I love it! Every student is in the front row.” With students being front and center, they gain the benefit of having their professor right there.
Hood has also seen success in her courses. “My students had perfect attendance all last semester, and so far, this semester as well! And I think that’s because we’ve broken the screen. I think it’s just understanding that there’s a real person on the other side of the screen, and that’s what it’s like for me online. It’s working to break the screen.” For Hood, “breaking the screen” can be summed up like this: “I always had the philosophy that it is my job to break the screen, to make everyone feel more connected, and that there is no distance between us.”
Landes finds relaxation in helping others. She takes time to listen to students who are struggling amidst the pandemic with job loss or added stress from school or family. “One of the other passions that I have is as far as teaching goes and ways that I relax, is I find different ways to help faculty and students through this difficult time,” she noted. “Recognize that there’s this issue with balance, and then you have to stay steadfast in maintaining that balance for your own mental health,” Landes added. “Go for a walk, do something you used to do, have a daily ritual that helps separate from that [daily stress].”
Breaking the screen, building that connection, and empathy with others is what makes Hood’s learning environment work on camera or off for every student of hers. With every student and faculty member working together to make the pandemic tolerable, we are creating a community one step at a time. It is times like these where innovation and creativity are needed to overcome obstacles, realize every person in our lives is a gift, or take time for our mental health. We are stronger together, more now than ever before.