Pandemic Teaching Week 9: The Better Part of Halfway Home

By Jody Jessup-Anger, Ph.D.

When Eric and I lived in Fort Collins, we often went to Denver to visit friends or family via I-25, a stick-straight, high speed, autobahn-like interstate on which we often felt like we were risking our lives because of the combination of high speeds and large number of semis. Traveling home, we had a tradition where, as we passed a certain exit (Johnstown for you locals), one of us would announce, “we are the better part of halfway home.” I had used the phrase once to indicate that, although there were still many miles to go, our journey was over halfway complete, and we had settled into the drive. The phrase stuck, and even after we left Fort Collins we say it when we come back to visit.

When I started teaching at Marquette over a decade ago, the phrase came back into my life, but this time, I used it to describe the time of the semester. The first couple of years of teaching were uncomfortable. In addition to prepping new classes, I didn’t have the rhythm of the semester down yet, so there was lot of discordance as students worked to figure out my expectations as I was still clarifying them myself. To cope with my anxiety and uncertainty, I counted the weeks we had remaining and breathed a sigh of relief when we were the better part of halfway done. My countdown faded away as I became more comfortable with myself in the classroom and began to pick up on the rhythm of the semester. I could anticipate students’ challenges and my own as the weeks went by.

This semester, I have been counting the weeks again. When I noticed I was doing it, I reflected on why this coping strategy found its way back into my life. As I have shared, there has been so much uncertainty this semester. And, in addition, I completely altered my teaching style to address the need for social distancing, the fact that I am teaching in a lecture hall, and my hybrid course. Were someone to observe my teaching last year, and observe it again this year, they would see different pedagogy enacted and different modalities employed. My rhythm is once again disrupted, and the discordance has returned. Looking ahead to next semester, the unpredictable will be more predictable. There are changes I will make from the outset. I think it will feel more comfortable. For now, I take comfort in knowing that we are the better part of halfway home.

Dr. Jessup-Anger is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of the Student Affairs in Higher Education program in the College of Education.

Counseling in an Online World

By Sabrina Bartels

It’s funny, I’ve started this blog post several times, but have not been able to figure out what to say that hasn’t already been said. If you had asked me seven or eight years ago to name some scenarios I was worried about in becoming a school counselor, I would never have even dreamed of this one. Who knew that in the span of a few months, I would go from being a standard school counselor to a virtual school counselor? And that I would still be a virtual counselor several months into a new school year?

My district has been virtual learning all fall, and I am incredibly thankful for their commitment to keep staff and students safe. But, not going to lie, I really miss my students. Online counseling is a whole new ball game, and one that my students and I have struggled to adjust to. I miss not being able to wander into classrooms, chat with students in the hallways, or joke around with kids in the lunchroom. A lot of my students have reported that they miss being able to just come down to my office whenever they need to and talk, play with kinetic sand, or exchange stories. It’s been tough all around.

Despite the challenges, I will say that there are several silver linings. Our Student Services department has had to get creative in terms of reaching our students while they are at home, and we’ve picked up some new talents along the way!

  1. Virtual offices. We hopped on this trend right away over summer, and all five of us (four school counselors and a school psychologist,) made individual virtual offices. I love them! Our students think they’re great, and that it’s funny we each have a bitmoji (apparently, they think we’re old?!) We were able to tailor our individual offices to our likes, hobbies, and individual personalities, and it definitely shows when you see each of them! In addition, we were able to link different resources to items in our virtual office, resources like food pantries; healthcare opportunities; mindfulness videos; COVID resources; and how to get ahold of us, just to name a few. This gives parents and students multiple resources at their fingertips, without them having to feel embarrassed about reaching out to us. If you want to create one, there are hundreds of tutorials on YouTube!
  • Postcards. In a time when everything is online, we thought our students would appreciate a little snail mail from us! We are sending out birthday postcards to our students, and so far, it seems to be a hit. One parent even commented that her daughter insisted on showing everyone that her school “didn’t forget about her.” How great is that! Also, fun fact: postcards are relatively inexpensive (we ordered almost 450 postcards from Amazon, and the price was around $107,) and postage is only 35 cents per card!
  • Individual meetings. Full disclosure: I was really nervous about these. Trying to meet with 300+ students sounds super daunting, and I was worried about how these meetings would go. But these meetings have absolutely saved me. While online, I do a lot of Zoom meetings, professional development, answer tons of emails, and do a lot of paperwork. I also call parents and spend time helping brainstorm ways to turn in-person events (like our Career Fair) into virtual activities. It’s fun (minus the paperwork!), but it can also be very draining. Doing these individual meetings reminds me of why I became a counselor. My students have shown me how resilient they are in these crazy times, and how they are staying positive in a tough situation. Through these meetings, I have:
    • Met a lot of adorable pets.
    • Virtually toured a lot of houses.
    • Met and interacted with siblings – some of them former students! That’s been a lot of fun.
    • Heard a lot of wise advice. Case in point: one of my students yesterday told me that she is working on forgiving herself for not being the saem kind of student she was last year, and how that is okay. The wisdom she has at 12 years old far surpasses mine, and that of some adults I know!
    • Gotten to know students I may not have interacted with as much last year. While the majority of my students know me, and I know them, I probably meet iwth about 100 students regularly in a typical year. Getting a chance to spend some uninterrupted time with my “non-regulars” has been a gift!

Lastly, I want to encourage everyone to check in on their own mental health and that of the people closest to you. This time is overwhelming and confusing and it’s normal to experience several different, sometimes conflicting, emotions right now. A lot of our routines have been disrupted; there’s a lot of uncertainty going on right now. Please, reach out to someone if you need help. We have told this to our students, but adults need to hear it too. If you need help, here are some resources:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741
  • The Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
  • Veterans Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 838255
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing – can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Arthur Scheller

This year, we are spending time getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Arthur, one of our current seniors!

Hello! My name is Arthur (Art) Scheller and I am from Mount Prospect, IL but have lived in Milwaukee for 19 1/2 years! I have a wonderful family with two sisters and loving parents. My family is very close knit and I love spending quality time with them. My extended family is very large and I love attending our family gatherings to spend time with them, especially my Nana and Grandpa.

My favorite educational experience was having the opportunity to teach lesson in a middle school in Wauwatosa based on a service trip I attended. This service trip was to learn about Migrants and undocumented immigrants down at the border in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. I truly enjoyed having the opportunity to prepare and implement a lesson on this topic, something to which I am very passionate about. An exciting opportunity to which I see for this upcoming academic year is learning how to craft, design, and plan a unit that which I can implement in my future classroom.

I was drawn to Marquette because my Nana and my Grandpa went here. They met while my grandpa was in Law School and they ended up marrying one another. Additionally my uncle, 2nd cousin, and cousin both attended Marquette. I was drawn to the College of Education due to the fact that they value hands on experience for their students from an early point in their college journey. The College of Education drew me because they value the students and helping them to utilize their talents to become the best and most effective educators they can be.

I am a full time student which consumes a majority of my time. I am very dedicated to my studies and care tremendously about a quality education. However, what I like to do outside the classroom is play sports (i.e. golf and tennis), watch tv, hang with friends, and anything related to art. However, my biggest passion outside the classroom is cooking and the culinary world.

My inspiration for my work and passion as an educator is my mother. My mother works as the director of marketing and enrollment for the Catholic Grade School to which I attended. She has a passion and drive for her job that is unmatched. She continues to do that job because she has an attachment to the community and the people to which she works with. Additionally, she has a passion and drive for catholic education and it truly shows through her devotion to her job.

Pandemic Teaching Week 8: The Messy Middle

By Jody Jessup-Anger, Ph.D.

This week has been rough. There is so much uncertainty in my community, at the university, and in my department, it is hard to stay anchored. Couple that with the normal crush of mid-semester, and I feel like a buoy being tossed in the surf. Students seems to be feeling it too. The number of requests to join class virtually spiked with the rise in COVID cases in Wisconsin. My need to attend to those requests while also attending to everything else (homeschooling, my research agenda, my mental health) was such that the requests fell off my radar screen. I found myself scrambling to send out the class link to everyone just before class, causing both students and me some anxiety.

Enter two interventions that have helped immeasurably. A friend recommended ‘Day 2’ on Brené Brown’s podcast, which introduced me to Day 2 as the ‘messy middle,’ or the space where one is wrestling with cognitive dissonance, getting used to new ways of being, and leaning into the ambiguity of what’s ahead. Brown applied the notion of ‘Day 2’ to both the pandemic and the racial reckoning happening in our country (and very intimately in my community). She contends that ‘Day 2’ is necessary to experience to get to resolution, and that often transformation happens when people can stay present in the discomfort. So, here we are in ‘Day 2.’

What that means for racial reckoning in my community is that we cannot unsee the actions taken by police against our friends and neighbors. For those of us not used to feeling oppression, we have a much better understanding and vantage point through which to view the reality faced by Black and Brown people in our neighborhood for years. I have had more conversations about police brutality, racism, and injustice with different friends and neighbors over the past five days than perhaps in the past nine years of living here. We can’t go back to where we were, and frankly, I don’t think we want to. The only way through this is forward, and to get there we need to do the hard work of addressing the structures that brought us to this point. The framing helps to quell the pain because it reminds me that the pain is a useful catalyst for change.

‘Day 2’ also applies to pandemic teaching. The pandemic is clearly not going away. We are in the messy middle in that we don’t know when it will end. It will require creativity to get to the other side. As I have navigated the semester of pandemic teaching, I have reminded myself to be flexible and attentive to students’ needs. More recently I have begun to ask the question, what can I do to make this easier, both on myself and on my students. We are ragged. Enter intervention two.

On Friday, I observed a colleague’s class as part of her tenure and promotion process. Immediately I was struck by her flexibility. She had students in person and online. She was also recording the session in case a student couldn’t attend either mode of instruction. It got me thinking about my class structure. What has been keeping me from enacting this approach? I have never turned down a student request to join online. What am I afraid of? Students not attending at all? That seems implausible. So, we tried it this week. I set up links for the rest of the semester and sent my students a note explaining the change. The class makeup shifted considerably, with about 10 students in person and 18 online. It was different, but I don’t think learning suffered. I anticipate fewer emails. I conducted a mid-semester evaluation, and students are grateful. The shift has freed up space to focus on other things. It will make the messy middle a bit more manageable.

Dr. Jessup-Anger is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of the Student Affairs in Higher Education program in the College of Education.

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Dominique Maybank

This year, we are spending time getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Dominique, one of our current seniors!

My name is Dominique Maybank and I am from Elgin, IL but have lived in Milwaukee for the past 4 years. My family very close with one another no matter how far apart we are. Everyone is supportive of each other’s passions, and many of them work as educators and business owners. My mother, father, and grandmother are my inspiration for my passion because of their deep commitment and strengths in their own. It pushes me in the end to commit, and push through.

I currently work for College Nannies and Tutors out of Mequon, WI, as a respite caregiver to primarily special needs children. I love that the families I work for are more than just clients to me, and I’m more than a nanny to them. This job provides me with opportunities in understanding how to truly listen to children and help empower them to advocate for themselves and gain independence. I think that’s just such an amazing feeling.

My favorite educational experience was experiencing the classrooms of Atwater Elementary and MCFI. These classrooms were sometimes drastically different than the ones I grew up in, and it was incredible to see first hand the significance of inequity and the major positive implications of holistic teaching styles. This semester I’m excited to delve more into planning for post graduate work and research and using the resources currently available to me for support.

I knew that I always wanted to be an educator and I wanted to be one of the bests ones. After a lot of research, I felt like Marquette’s College of Education was the perfect fit for the types of experiences and support I’d be given.

In my free time, I love to challenge myself. My main hobbies are reading, running, puzzle books, and cooking. I love to read; I just love knowledge! It makes me feel powerful. I love running because of the satisfaction I have in myself whenever I finish doing it. It makes me feel like a fine-tuned machine. I’m obsessed with puzzle books, mainly for the same reasons as running and reading. I also love cooking because it makes me feel masterful and also like I’m at home. Some advice I would give for whoever might be interested in my hobbies would be to persevere! Sometimes you mess up, it wasn’t your best performance, or the activity needs to be scrapped all together. The important thing to keep rising to the occasion.

Who we are in the moments when we believe no one is watching is when we are our most true selves, so make sure you’re proud of it!

Dean Bill Henk to Retire

Dr. William (Bill) Henk, dean of the College of Education, will retire at the end of this semester after 16 years of service to Marquette University.

As a dean, Henk has successfully led efforts for national and state accreditation, the designation of his academic unit as the College of Education, the creation of a new baccalaureate degree, and an undergraduate major in educational studies.

“I’m extremely proud of what our students, faculty and staff in the College of Education have accomplished during my time as dean,” Henk said. “With the help of our alumni, friends and community partners, we’ve made a genuine difference in P-16 education and mental health locally and well beyond. Along the way, we fared well with accreditation, became a college, pioneered a popular blog, developed exciting new academic programs, produced impactful scholarship, supported Catholic schools and urban education, routinely achieved success in faculty promotion and tenure, and garnered several university awards and external professional recognitions. And there’s much more to come under the outstanding leadership that Dr. Burkard will provide.”

Read the full release on Marquette Today

Pandemic Teaching Week 7: The Benefit of Having a Garage Code

By Jody Jessup-Anger, Ph.D.

My Monday typically starts with an early morning run; this week was no exception. The quiet exertion helps me clear my head and mentally prepare for the week. In the fall, I particularly appreciate the cool temperatures and sunrise that greets me as I plod along. I was about a mile into this Monday’s run when an alarm bell hit my consciousness. A car drove by me and slowed, sped up, and then slowed again. It seemed too early for a visitor looking for an address. The car hit the brake lights as it crossed a street in front of me and waited, so I turned away from it. The car made a U-turn and followed my new path, passing me again and then slowing. Sensing that I might be in danger, I felt my body tense and my pace quicken. I quickly made a safety plan, switching direction again and heading into what I consider the heart of our neighborhood. Grateful for my location, I counted at least a half dozen houses in my immediate vicinity where could knock on the door at 6:00 am, and a friend would answer without hesitation. A bit further ahead was another house with garage that had easy street access and a push button opener I was reasonably confident I knew the code to. As I weighed my options, the car passed me again, slowed, and then took off, perhaps it really was on the wrong street, or, it had grown bored harassing a middle-age jogger who kept changing direction. Regardless, I was relieved.

As I continued to run, certainly more awake and alert, I felt overwhelming gratitude for my community. The experience sharpened the reality that there are numerous people I can turn to in a time of need. People know me, acknowledge me, and are willing to help me. Among neighbors there is an easy trust that has built up as we encounter one another on the sidewalk, at school functions, and during neighborhood activities. My friends’ friends become my friends and my circle widens.

The students in my classes don’t seem to be as connected this semester. The easy banter that I typically interrupt to start class and that punctuates the break is virtually non-existent. Students seem to be struggling more academically and socially. Earlier this week, a few of my learning community research partners and I discussed how Covid-19 is creating relationship-starved students. One colleague shared how her main interaction with students involves reassuring them that they are okay. In prepping for some professional development sessions, we determined that this year is all about focusing on students’ needs for safety and belonging and that we might have to let go of some higher order goals. We need to be sure that students have a garage code. They need a place to feel safe. They need to know that someone at the university has their back during this lonely and anxiety-filled time.

Dr. Jessup-Anger is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of the Student Affairs in Higher Education program in the College of Education.

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Samantha Zingsheim

This year, we are spending time getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Samantha, one of our current freshmen!

My name is Samantha Zingsheim and I am from Grayslake, Illinois! I have lived in Milwaukee for about two week now, and absolutely love it. One word to describe my family is small because I’m an only child. However, I really enjoy spending time and having meals with my family whenever I am home. At home, I work as a nursing assistant at a senior living center. I love the people and the opportunity to learn. A big challenge is being patient and calm in difficult situations, but I know these skills will come in handy in my future career!

My favorite educational experience is anytime my classes have debates and discussions, specifically in my Philosophy class. This year, I’m excited to try a bunch of new things while in college and take different classes to help me narrow down my career choice. I’m still unsure of what my specific majors will be, but I know I love helping people and being a teacher is one of my top choices!

In my free time, I really like to write! I take a lot of inspiration from my surroundings and the kind of life I envision myself having one day. For me, I enjoy writing pieces of any length and find that it comes easy to me when I’m writing about something that either happened to me or something that I have experienced. My biggest inspiration is a famous writer (whom I take a lot of my inspiration from), named Rupi Kaur. She has written many amazing pieces on the human emotions and I hope that maybe my writing can be more intuitive and raw like hers.

I hope despite the challenges we all face this year that we all make the best of it and have a great year!

Aspiring Allies for Anti-Racism Solidarity Circle

Students in the College of Education are invited to join the Aspiring Allies for Anti-Racism Solidarity Circle along with People of Color Solidarity Circles.

The EDUC/EDPL Aspiring Allies for Anti-Racism Solidarity Circle is a space for students who do not identify as people of color to explore the work of anti-racist allyship. ‘Ally’ is not a label we can claim for ourselves; we can only ever aspire to allyship in our actions and our interrogation of our actions and beliefs. The Aspiring Allies Solidarity Circle will support these aspirations by providing community and authentic connection among students and faculty working to become anti-racist allies. Because aspiring to allyship demands that we turn a critical eye on ourselves, we imagine this Solidarity Circle will be a space to talk about whiteness, power, and race; to interrogate the relationship between our beliefs, actions, and biases; to honestly share our steps and missteps in anti-racist work; and to explore how our own identities and white ways-of-being impact these aspirations. Dr. Burmeister and Dr. Gibson will serve as the Aspiring Allies advisors. They hope to create a space where EDUC/EDPL undergraduate and graduate students can connect with each other in solidarity for racial justice and also receive support from faculty and the overall department. The Aspiring Allies Solidarity Circle will meet once a month starting Friday, October 30, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

If you are a white student or a student who does not identify as a person of color interested in joining the EDUC/EDPL Aspiring Allies Solidarity Circles -or- if you know a student that might be interested, please fill out the interest form or contact Dr. Burmeister or Dr. Gibson. More information about meeting dates & times will be sent to interested students in the next couple of weeks. If you have any questions, you can contact Dr. Burmeister and Dr. Gibson. Interested students should look forward to additional information about joining the circle. In the meantime, feel free to contact the advisors if you have questions.

Pandemic Teaching Week 6: So Much Noise

By Jody Jessup-Anger, Ph.D.

The theme of this week is noise. There is so much of it. When I sit beside Sydney as she does her schoolwork, she sings or talks constantly (I am coming to appreciate those veiled ‘certainly social’ comments that show up on her report card). As our family learns and works from home together, the noise of conference calls, music, and social media envelops our household. On days where the kids are in school, or I am in my office, I often spend the first few minutes enjoying the silence.

But then I open my email, and the noise returns. Budget cuts, town halls, quarantines, racial injustice, program closures, deficits, academic calendar changes, new Covid policies, IT disruptions, committee requests: it is hard to know where to focus and easy to spin off into Anxietyville. Feeling frantic is bad for teaching. Students need clarity, organization, and my focused mind. So, how to get there? Two questions I return to as I start to spin are: What is the most important thing? And, what is my locus of control?

When in class, student learning is the most important thing. I am grateful for the privilege of guiding future (and current) student affairs administrators to practice in ethical, equity minded, theory driven, and research informed ways. When they come to class prepared, and I come prepared to teach, magic sometimes happens as we all witness their potential come to life. This preparation, both for the students and for me, is harder to come by this semester. It requires selective listening that takes discipline and energy. It necessitates vulnerability that is hard to connect to behind a mask.

As I watched the debate last night, I was struck by Biden’s tactic of appealing to the camera when Trump became particularly aggressive. There was so much noise. In one way, Biden’s gaze into the camera appealed to viewers by speaking directly to us to ensure we heard the message. In another way, however, the gaze illustrated his locus of control. Biden had no choice but to debate Trump. He had no control over Trump’s behaviors. What he did control, however, is how he reacted in response to the noise. Biden used his locus of control to convey his most important thing: messaging about his plan to improve the country.

In the face of all the noise, I am still working to figure out my locus of control. How many decisions are really ‘to be determined’? It’s hard to say. I am clear on my most important thing, however. I am a higher education scholar because I am curious about the transformative power of college going. Students choose Marquette because they believe in that experience. If we lose sight of our most important job and give into the noise of shiny objects, shedding our strong cadre of student affairs professionals and our dedicated faculty along the way, our student experience will suffer and our university won’t be better for it.

Dr. Jessup-Anger is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of the Student Affairs in Higher Education program in the College of Education.

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