April Lidinsky

Some Things Haven’t Changed: Our Relationships with Our Students Are Still Paramount

Blog Post created by April Lidinsky Expert on May 27, 2020

Photo with computer and garden by April Lidinsky


While many of us have hobbled through the spring semester, there is no rest for the weary, it seems. I hope you are all taking socially distanced and masked walks to recharge. We will need our energy for a summer of pedagogical preparation.


Of course, some of us are already teaching summer sessions online. Some of us know that we will be teaching in the fall semester. I also want to acknowledge how many valued colleagues will not be returning to campus positions—a painful reminder of the very personal economic impact of the pandemic. I hold these losses in mind as I dig deep for gratitude that while there is more instructional design work to do to prepare for the coming semester/s, I’m lucky to be in a position to do it.


Most of our campuses seem to be planning multiple teaching scenarios for fall, acknowledging that we are all subject to the virus’s waves. So, I’ve created a summer pedagogy syllabus for myself, taking advantage of some campus-sponsored training for teaching more effectively online. I’ve given myself target dates for reimagining my fall courses, revisiting my goals and gleaning from student feedback what they found most engaging in my spring courses. Happily, based on my course evaluations, my students and I appreciate the same course values: enthusiastic engagement in the material and a compassionate learning environment. Those are familiar goals that I can carry forward into less familiar learning environments.


I’ll offer two short articles about enriching learning relationships that I have found encouraging as I face the work ahead, and hope you’ll share your favorites, too.


An interdisciplinary group of professors, operating as the TPHE Collective, has this well-timed reminder as we revisit our syllabi:


This is the perfect time to dissolve the customary boundaries between teacher and student and figure out how to learn together. All participants in our classes are affected by the coronavirus. We all have much to learn from this situation and each other.


They offer guidance on what to let go of, as well as what to “latch on to”:

  • Caring for students as whole people;
  • fostering community and connections that facilitate learning;
  • working to understand each student’s context;
  • collaborating with students on their learning;
  • learning from students;
  • responding with flexibility;
  • engaging conversations about the difficulty of now;
  • challenging students to learn, not just ride out the semester;
  • avoiding isolation and collaborating with other faculty members; and
  • using colleagues as resources and sounding boards.


I found similarly encouraging this short piece by Cathy Davidson on foregrounding the humanity and vulnerability of the learning environments we create, particularly during the pandemic:


We need to think about what we all can offer one another—curiosity, imagination, knowledge, power—as antidotes to the present disruption and trauma, as tools towards building a future. As educators, we offer ways that help students not just learn content but also how to have a path-way towards accomplishment. We can encourage them not just to learn from us, as experts, but support them in the process of learning how to become experts. That's an excellent tool to have in the face of uncertainty.


While the world will seem unfamiliar for some time to come, I’m holding onto these reminders from kindly colleagues that we can hang onto the familiar humanity of teaching, with all its stumbles and vulnerabilities and revelations. As we know when we read our student evaluations, our students learn far more from us than the course material. They call us to be our best selves, and for that, I remain grateful.


I’m wishing you all a safe and restorative summer.