The pandemic has thrown off balance every aspect of life-as-we-know-it. Teaching and learning are no exception. Transitioning to remote instruction in record speed has posed a particular challenge in connecting with students, in spite of (at times, because of) leading-edge instructional technologies. Communication is really about human bonds—how do we sustain these bonds from a distance?
As in my formerly live classes at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, I arrive early to the Zoom “room” to scan the participants list and greet the early birds by name. Simply saying “good morning [enter first name here]” while waving a hand is our proxy handshake in this time of social distancing. I do the same at the end of the class. I hang out for another 15 minutes and chat about class-related questions or random topics with those who choose to stay. On their way out, I also wave students goodbye, calling them by name as they say “thank you” or “bye” in the chat box. It is a small step in personalizing the World Wide Web.
Because video is optional in my larger classes, I keep a printed copy of the photo roster of all the students right next to me. When someone without video asks a question, I can quickly glance down to connect their name to a face on the roster. For an honors seminar with 14 students that I facilitate, however, students are required to be on video, allowing me to grasp some of the non-verbal nuances of our interactions. Another option is to ask all students to briefly turn their camera on and wave at the start of the class. This provides some feeling of “presence,” even if only for a moment.
The creative, indefatigable efforts and hard work of the nursing faculty during this singular crisis did not go unnoticed by the students. They created an empathic thank-you video in response.
I get a little sentimental watching it. It is like opening a love letter, something a faculty member can re-read (or re-watch) to validate the mutuality of authentic connections.
I have also recently reached out to former nursing students who are now on the frontlines of this pandemic. The short email later became a blog entry for the American Nurses Association.
These are all ways to connect with students despite our present constraints. Connection will flourish when we allow or curate for it—and it can extend well beyond the walls of the classroom.
Fidelindo Lim, DNP, CCRN, is clinical associate professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing