In order to fulfill its mission of promoting excellence in teaching and learning, The Center for Teaching and Learning hosts a series of colloquiums throughout the academic year. The purpose of these sessions is to provide an opportunity for faculty and members of the college community to gather and discuss topics of interest in an informal, relaxed setting.
“Colloquium I: Keeping Your Classroom Climate Cool” on February 28th sought to highlight best practices for creating classroom climates that promote support, collaboration, and engagement and how to help students surpass the six-week threshold. Sarah Hoiland moderated as Hostos cool experts Lieutenant George London (Public Safety), Fabian Wander (Health and Wellness), Joyce Sage Sevilla (Behavioral Sciences) Laura McGowan (ASAP), Joey Snavely (Title V), and Jacki DiSanto (Education Dept.) offered the audience a host of strategies from first-day strategies such as a syllabus scavenger hunt or syllabus quiz to including a resource sheet with locations and contact numbers for various programs and resources. Sage establishes a “no screens” policy “once you cross this threshold” in her classes and emphasizes that SOC 101 is “Live from New York” and values listening, diversity, and reflection. She incorporates silence and says that in a quiet classroom, the fog lifts, and students can move into discussions and then action. Fabian encouraged attendees to look for signs of changes in students and to begin with a mindfulness sequence. Similarly, Lt. London encouraged faculty to think, “What is normal? What has changed? Do I have a plan?” Sarcasm, lack of understanding, and unclear policies can lead to an “uncool” classroom climate. Supplemental Instruction (SI) strategies such as redirecting questions can ease any tension if a student feels like their question is not being answered.
All of the panelists encouraged honesty and a deliberate attempt to help students create their own toolboxes to deal with relationships, problem-solving, and bureaucracy. How do panelists deal with the stigma surrounding mental illness, an audience member queried. Fabian encouraged replacing the term mental illness with emotional wellness and Sage added, “Judgment is at the center. Humility is our work.” The colloquium closed with a general discussion related to the vicarious trauma faculty experiences when dealing with a plethora of student issues in addition to obstacles in their own lives. The importance of self-care for faculty, staff, and administrators, is an essential component of “keeping it cool.”
As part of Hostos’ Earth Day celebrations on April 18th, “Colloquium II: Creating Synergies to Keep Your Classroom Climate Cool” built upon the key question from the first colloquium and focused on collaborations by asking, “How do we develop synergies and support systems to motivate and engage students with their learning?” Hostos synergists Andy London, Sandy Figueroa, and Sarah Hoiland provided a number of examples from collaborations with faculty from other departments and institutions (inside CUNY and outside CUNY), Hostos students (Jose Munoz Garcia, Diego Reyes, and Steven Ramos) collaborating with Harvard students and Prof. London, and faculty collaborating with community-based organizations. Prof. Cynthia Jones moderated the colloquium. The range of collaborations was vast. Professor London introduced Hostos students who had communicated with Harvard students on identical assignments for their animation foundation classes. The students expressed their excitement working with Harvard students and their awareness that collaborating with them long distance made for some lasting relationships. Prof. London further discussed the benefits his classes had espoused on the value of collaboration. He is continuing to think of ways to design activities and experiences for future collaborative initiatives. Prof. Sandy Figueroa gave a passionately robust presentation about the value of service learning and group work. She detailed various projects which warranted collaboration among students, and she discussed the positive outcomes of the assignments – increased quality of work, adoption of team-based skills, and heightened communicative abilities, just to name a few. Prof. Sarah Hoiland discussed the service learning opportunity of working with o community-based organization. Her students were assigned to a senior citizen center. Students worked on various projects selected by the seniors; one such project resulted in a fashion show. Students evaluated their experiences in a positive light to Prof. Hoiland; they saw the relevance of in-class and out-of-class experiences.