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.
My term as a VIPEr Fellow officially began on March 29, 2018, when I accepted the offer from Joanne Stewart to be a member of Cohort #1. The next academic year I video-recorded lectures and passed out surveys in preparation for our June 2019 workshop.
For many of us, the past two semesters may have been the most challenging semesters that we have ever had, not only with classes suddenly being shifted online, but also many other administrative issues like a decrease in enrollment and academic support that negatively affect our morale and our ability to teach.
As I reflect over the past two years as a VIPEr Fellow, I cannot help thinking about Raphael’s fresco, Scuola di Atene (School of Athens). Now, to liken the VIPEr fellows with Plato and Aristotle would be far-fetched.
I signed up to be a VIPEr fellow the first year I taught undergrad chemistry. The class was taught traditionally, and I struggled to teach it effectively. Many of my students have families and/or work, leaving little time for studying outside of class (course enrollment ~ 60-80 students). I relied on this website extensively for ideas to make class time more fun and interactive, so being a fellow made sense to me. In addition to being more effective at teaching, I wanted to create a nurturing and inclusive environment.
My charge with this reflection is to try and communicate how being a Fellow impacted my teaching of inorganic chemistry and, more broadly, how participation as a Fellow impacted me as an educator between the 2019 school year, the workshop the following summer, and the 2020 school year.