Attending the VIPEr Fellows workshop, I could feel the collective exasperation, exhaustion and frustration from a group of highly intelligent and highly motivated individuals who were perhaps, like me, feeling less motivated than ever before, beaten down by the prior pandemic years of disarray and drastic changes. I felt relieved to be given permission to also feel these things (outwardly anyways) that I have tried to “power through” in the p
After three days of brilliant sunshine the cloudburst outside reflects my sadness that this workshop weekend has gone so quickly and that I could not be in Dearborn. The chance simply to connect with others teaching inorganic chemistry is a precious treasure. Whether the workshop, SLiThErs, or the VIPErPit, these connections sustain me, inspire me, and keep me from feeling isolated.
Like so much in the last few years, participating in the VIPEr Fellows project has forced me to do some hard thinking and has required me to give myself grace. Between the pandemic, starting as a new department chair in July 2020 (and continuing as of this writing), and adjusting to many other personal and global events, I haven’t done much of anything to the standards I would ordinarily hold myself.
I really didn’t know what I was getting involved with when I applied to be a fellow. A colleague of mine had done it previously and I was encouraged by my department to look into it. So, I genuinely approached this entire journey as a blank slate. Actually…I might have been a skeptic. I’m probably not the only faculty member here who chose to go into academics because they enjoyed their classes while a student, and those classes were predominately traditional lectures.
My second year as a VIPEr Fellow extended into a third year, after teaching was upended by COVID in March 2020. Instead of completing the data collection in spring 2020, I used my in-person Spring 2021 course as the second semester of participation in the Fellows program.
Like most of cohort 1, my second year as a VIPEr Fellow did not go as expected, in that both of my semester options for completing the second half of the project ended up being moved partly or fully online by the pandemic.
As I look back through my email, I was “looking forward to this experiment(!)” back in August of 2017.
I accepted the invitation to participate as VIPEr Fellow because I wanted to be a more dynamic teacher. After the first year I developed this massive plan to become an extremely active teacher in the classroom and increase the student-teacher and student-student dialogue in the classroom from essentially zero. A year passes and I teach the class again and come back to see that my classroom looks identical to the first year!
As I sat down to write this reflection, I looked at the calendar, and realized it’s been over one year since UWSP joined the ranks of academic higgledy-piggledy brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways it still feels like 2020. COVID is still here, the delta variant is on the rise, and there are still concerns, especially for those not eligible for vaccination. But there is hope. I’ve got two doses of the Moderna vaccine in my arm, I’ve returned to in-person work, and I feel hope for the first time in a while.
Our first Fellows workshop in the summer of 2019 seems like forever ago now. I left the workshop with so many great ideas and plans for my course. I wanted to practice being a better facilitator of group discussion and in-class group work, to encourage all students to participate.