Minimizing Storm Damage to Our Classes

Dealing With the Aftermath of Michael

We hope you’re all safe, and beginning to recover from your experiences last week. Our thoughts are with our colleagues and their students at the Panama City campus.

Those of us on the Tallahassee campus are fortunate to be able to return to classes this week, even though our minds are probably elsewhere. Despite the disruption, we can still offer our students a powerful learning experience this semester, and help them to accomplish the goals of our courses–but first we will need to rebuild classroom community, and help students regain their focus. Although it may seem like you can’t spare the time, giving students a few minutes to discuss their experiences last week can help them to get reacquainted, and allow them to move on. It will also be important to reengage their memories, and to allow them to rediscover the value of the learning they’re doing in our courses. A discussion of the work they were doing before the storm, and/or a brief in-class writing assignment, can provide valuable retrieval practice. (Our suggestions for the week after spring break also apply now, as do James Lang’s great ideas for focusing students’ attention at the start of class.)

At the same time, SACS, our accreditors, expect us to make up the lost contact hours. Developing a plan for doing that both effectively and humanely will be a challenge. We want to assist you as you decide how to make up the lost time. If you choose to use online tools, you don’t have to rely solely on content delivery: as Terry Doyle reminds us, “the one who does the work does the learning.” You’re not obligated to record lectures– there are plenty of options that might offer good learning opportunities for students, including narrated power points accompanied by quizzes or writing prompts; or synchronous meetings and chats; or interactive options like targeted and guided discussions. If you do decide to move some material online, the more rote or procedural work will be the best place to start: students can acquire basic vocabulary and concepts from reading or a video. They need you when they’re tackling the more challenging tasks, like application and deeper analysis, and when they need your feedback on their practice. Your precious class time can be reserved to guide their thinking, with case studies, problem solving, follow-up questions, and so forth.

Juggling the schedule is not the most important repair we have to make, though. Students whose homes and families were in the path of the hurricane will be stressed, or even traumatized, and everyone will have been thrown for a loop by the scare, and the disruption. It will be important for us to acknowledge this, and deal sensitively with students’ fears and exigencies (The CTE at Rice University offered useful suggestions after Harvey). We’ll have to be careful not to pack on too many additional deadlines, and be flexible, since students will be making up the lost time in all of their courses at once. Last fall, both faculty and Student Services saw unusually high numbers of students in distress, and we can expect similarly high numbers this year. If you’re concerned about one or more of your students, you can refer them to the University Counseling Center.

You don’t have to tackle these challenges alone: we’re here to support you as you make and implement your new plans. We’ll be open Tuesday and Wednesday, October 17 and 18, from 9:00-1:00 for walk-in Clinics in 432 Diffenbaugh; and you can make an individual appointment any time by emailing us at We can help you distill your learning goals, plan community-building work, determine what material could best be conveyed online, adjust your schedule and the timing of assessments, identify resources, help you select and use a range of tools, and more. We look forward to working with you.