"How are you doing?"
It's a simple question, right? It's one that is typically used to start a conversation, to assess another's well-being, before moving on. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as so many schools embarked on the unchartered territory of distance learning, Pace School of Education professor, Dr. Jennifer Pankowski, raised this question to her EDU616 class. Their response was astounding and ultimately consumed the entire class.
Whereas most would expect the conversation to primarily focus on health and safety issues, the students used this time as an opportunity to express their frustrations adapting to the NYC Board of Education teaching platform, Google Classroom. This graduate class consists of DOE Teaching Fellows, whose day job is teaching in NYC public schools. Learning resources were not readily available to them, so in addition to being introduced to an entirely new way of teaching, they also had to become acclimated to an entirely new platform, all while adapting their own students to a virtual classroom.
It was after that class where Dr. Pankowski, who also had minimal experience working with this learning management system, decided that they would overcome this hurdle and tackle Google Classroom together. She began her own Google Classroom, and within a week, the class grew to 30 members. Topics have also extended beyond the learning nuances from grading rubrics, student mental-health check-ins, leveraging videos, and virtual field trip opportunities. The students have embraced this new resource and support group with open arms. "I REALLY love this!!!" and "The timing could not have been better!" are just a few expressions of sentiments from the "classmates."
So, what's next? Responding to a need was the first step, like the triage of a hospital. Yet after seeing the overwhelmingly positive response to the EDU616 Google Classroom, Dr. Pankowski wants to expand these resources, "We can learn from this experience; we don't need to wait for the next crisis to make ourselves more adaptable." By opening up the Google Classroom to all SOE students, the plan is to continue providing resources, and in the long term, use more technology and remote tools once we go back into the classrooms. The goal is to include monthly topics and resources for a diverse group of educators. Dr. Pankowski adds, "We are learning how to collaborate with families in a way we never thought possible, and we are adapting assignments so that parents and caregivers can be our eyes and ears at home. Perhaps we can better support students who are absent or help a family who is struggling. We don't need to go back to the old ways of communication now that we are learning this one. What's next is leveraging this new skill to make ourselves more effective practitioners."
So remember the next time you ask someone, 'How are you doing?' be sure to really listen. It may open the door to service a need that so many seek in these challenging times.
Are you a Pace School of Education student using Google Classroom, who would love to be part of Dr. Pankowski' s online community? Just send an email to SOE@PACE.EDU or JPANKOWSKI@PACE.EDU to be invited to the class.