TAUU council message – Let us hear your voice!
The corona crisis has affected all of us: in our everyday lives, in the satisfaction and joy we get from work; and the worries we have about students, family, or friends. We miss being around each other, we miss real social contact, and we miss strolling over de Drift or the USP campus. But what lessons can we learn from this complex and challenging year? We at TAUU asked ourselves three questions: what should remain, what should we stop doing now, what should we start doing from January onwards?
In our year-end message, we would like to reflect on these three questions from the UU teachers’ perspective. This blog is an open invitation to all of you in the teaching community: Let us hear your voice!
I think we can all agree that this year has been and still is quite a ride. But for one moment, let us focus on the things that this year has brought us. Let’s for example appreciate the resilience of Utrecht University’s own teaching community. Where the live communication decreased, the digital communication grew. Not only did our lively community increase in size and scope, also more cross-department and cross-faculty collaborations arose.
So what should remain?
Whether we found each other on MS Teams, Zoom, Google Hangout, Skype or at 1,5 meters distance; it reinvigorated the sense of community amongst many teachers. Even with all the challenges we’ve had to overcome that came with this new digital world. Challenges such as a bad internet connection, loud neighbours or roommates, discovering your pet is not camera-shy at all or children that really wanted to express their joy of you being home with them, while in the middle of teaching a lecture. We saw, we overcame, we recognized: we’re in this together, it brought us closer together, made us innovative and expanded our digital skills.
Unfortunately, there is no sun without rain: so what do we want to burn from 2020, what should we stop doing, rather today than tomorrow?
We’re lucky we have so many tools to be connected to each other, but sometimes, excitement takes over and before you know it you’re having uninterrupted, back to back, MS Teams meetings all day. No time to eat, to use the bathroom, let alone grab a good coffee to go at your favorite local coffee place.
The phrase, “time flies when you’re having fun” appeared not to be applicable to a two-hour PowerPoint presentation, unfortunately. As we leave back-to-back scheduled meetings in 2020, let’s also give long PowerPoint presentations the cold shoulder. Let’s face the fact that we cannot deliver the same high quality education or achieve the same learning objectives as we did face-to-face. Let’s remember that we’re not working and studying from home, but working and studying while at home. The latter has a lot of effect on students and staff members and leaves them struggling with their motivation, concentration and mental health. And sometimes, it is okay not to be okay. Let’s be realistic about our expectations, focus more on our mental health and weather this storm together.
As New Year approaches, let’s look ahead: how do we want to emerge from the crisis as a university? What should we definitely start doing from January 1st 2021 onwards? For one, let’s build on the knowledge we already have! We’ve build on new insights gained since March 2020. Great COVID-19-proof initiatives have started in this pandemic by working together, ranging from Academic Family program’s to Hybrid community-based internships!
By adjusting expectations more explicit, we will be able to, not only protect the teaching staff, but also our students. To do so, we have to leave no stone unturned; so let’s take this time to re-evaluate the core principles of academic education that we want to convey to students and within the University.
To conclude, we’re on the right track and let’s continue this conversation, not end it here. We invite you to speak your mind on practices you think we should remain, leave in 2020 and/or start doing in this new year that is ahead of us!
The best wishes to all of you, TAUU Council:
Adrien Melquiond, Lorena de Vita, Marij Swinkels
Sanne Frequin, Stef Dingemans and Jocelyn Ballantyne
18 December 2020
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