April 15, 2020 | Bringing It #36: Upcoming Programming, More Resources, and Grantee Success

Dear friends, 

We hope that this finds you safe and well—or getting well.  We remain inspired by the efforts of so many teachers and students to sustain the work of teaching and learning during COVID-19. And we’re horrified by the toll the pandemic is taking physically and emotionally—a toll that falls disproportionately on institutions, students, and teachers with the fewest resources to shelter from the crisis. We know that all of us—BTtoP and our whole community—will need to join with others to overcome the systemic inequity that the pandemic has exposed. In this moment, we simply send our care and love.

Recognizing the huge influx of resources and virtual gathering opportunities, we’ve been considering how BTtoP can contribute meaningfully to the conversation—whether it would be useful to create online opportunities for resource-sharing, mutual support, and presentations that bring the core concerns of the BTtoP community to bear on educating during the pandemic. Here we ask for your help. We have created this survey, which includes several topic suggestions for “virtual togethering” and invites you to offer your own. Please take a moment to let us know what programming, if any, you would like us to offer. You can also always reach us directly at info@bttop.org. Thank you for any and all input.

Reader Responses and Resources  

In previous letters, we’ve shared our concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on student and faculty well-being, as well as resources for engaged teaching and student support in the face of the pandemic. Many of you have responded with stories, suggestions, and resources you have created—some specific to the coronavirus crisis, some reflecting on the experience of teaching and supporting students in other disaster situations.

  • Our friends at Sustained Dialogue are offering virtual skill sessions to ease higher ed into online dialogue work. You can find their weekly schedule here
  • Karen Gross, an educational policy advocate and former president of Southern Vermont College, shared her recent article, “I’m Worried...Higher Education Isn’t Focused at all on COVID-19’s Psychological Toll,” as well as information on her forthcoming book, Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door: Strategies and Solutions for Educators, PreK–College (to be published on June 19, 2020).
  • Professor Ricia Anne Chansky, of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, shared her article, “Teaching Hurricane María: Disaster Pedagogy and the Ugly Auto/Biography,” which “explores the potential benefits of students writing unrevised, real-time auto/biographical narratives as an element of disaster pedagogy.”

Many thanks for these suggestions. Please keep on sharing your experiences, advice, and resources.

Grantee Spotlight: University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), Grand Valley State University, and Kent State University

We are continuing to spotlight projects of educators whose work BTtoP was delighted to support in our Multi-Institutional Innovation Grant (MIG) program. Here’s a post by the leaders of a terrific civic-engagement project involving three different (and distanced) institutions:

At a moment when we must practice social distancing to sustain life and health, all of us in higher education can plant the seeds of enhanced civic proximity. With support from a BTtoP Multi-Institutional Innovation Grant, David Hoffman and Romy Hübler (Center for Democracy and Civic Life, UMBC), Melissa Baker-Boosamra (Office of Student Life, Grand Valley State University) and Craig Berger (Community Engaged Learning, Kent State University) are developing tools educators and students can use to build skills and foster dispositions to support civic proximity and engagement in a wide variety of settings, including within institutions. The initial products of their collaboration, a Civic Courage Reflection Workshop facilitation guide and worksheet, help workshop participants to recognize aspects of civic courage beyond a willingness to take a risk for a cause, reflect on their past experiences with this expanded understanding of civic courage in mind, and identify opportunities to practice civic courage now and in the future. Participants in pilot workshops have shared that they have gained new insights about how to deal with challenges in their own workplace and organizational settings by using foresight, looking for opportunities to collaborate, and practicing strategic patience. The facilitation guide, worksheet, and other tools to be developed align with the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Theory of Change, which describes how higher education can extend and deepen its support for students as co-creators of a thriving democracy.

We hope you are staying safe and will keep in touch. Thank you for the work you are doing.

Sincerely,

David, Mercedes, Caitlin, and Kate