For our second day of class, Mindtap was a little troublesome, but everyone was patient and we all finally got it figured out. Abby and I walked around and helped folks get set up. One of the problems was that student accounts were looking different than what we were shown at orientation and what Abby was accustomed to. We also had the expected trouble with turning off pop-up blocking. Once we were all in, it was smooth sailing with showing them the online textbook and how to do the auto-graded assignments.
Abby also showed the students the LiveSafe app and gave them the chance to download it, which I really appreciated. I think it showed the students that we care about their safety and it is actually on our minds. I’m also going to put it on my phone for Monday nights because I don’t get done on campus until 8:30 and my walk to my bus stop in the dark is a little scary. I’ll use the SafeWalk feature to get from the library to my bus and then from the bus to home with my brother on the other end. He will definitely appreciate knowing I’m safe without him having to come pick me up.
So far three students have come to my office and they all seemed happy when we were done, so I feel good about that! The second two students were just sitting with me to borrow my copy of the Pirate Read because theirs hadn't come in yet, but it still helped them have one less thing to worry about during this stressful first week when things are prone to go wrong and overwhelm students.
In class I’ve also decided to sit at the very back, not to distance myself from Abby or the students, but so I can see everyone’s device. Everyone has been on task so far, so I’m not sure if that will ever become a problem or not. So being able to see devices should also help me know who’s having trouble with Blackboard or MindTap or even connecting to the Wi-Fi to begin with. I think that will give me the chance to help them sooner because it does seem like students would sometimes rather sit in silence with nothing on their screen and fall behind instead of asking Abby to slow down or repeat a step or ask for help (because asking for help is scary, especially when it seems like everyone else is not having a problem).
I will start by saying that yesterday was a good first day! The students in ENGL 1100 with Abby all seemed very receptive to having me as their advocate and go-to person for any questions or concerns. That advocacy is what I’m most looking forward to about this unique position as embedded mentor/TA. Being the advocate for students in the UWC and being able to act as mediator between them and the professor/between them and the assignments/fear/assumptions was always what allowed me to alleviate their stress the most and encourage them the most; it was utterly fulfilling for me, perhaps because I know how scary asking for help can be and how feeling like they are falling behind or just not getting it can really weigh heavily on a student’s mind.
One thing in class that didn’t go perfectly as I imagined it was the ice breaker. Students were already antsy to leave early at that point because they could hear/see other classes being let out early, but Abby used the full class time like she should have. So, we didn’t get through as many ice breaker questions as I thought we would, and we only got to know a few students who identified with the first few questions (if they liked Marvel/DC movies/comics). The few students who answered “yes” were very enthusiastic, at least! I know what some of the students in class like, but not what most do! As I meet students one-on-one I hope to get to know them better. When they come to my office they’ll see my personality all over my desk with my little decorations and resources for them, so hopefully that will both make them comfortable and encourage them to share about themselves too (if they want to).
At least one student is planning to come today and I’m looking forward to it. She was totally proactive and emailed me with a question yesterday and it was a “proper” and polite block letter email, so she’s already on the right track!
As for those resources I mentioned, I’ve put some spare pencils, erasers, and notebooks that I never used (and just don’t have room for at home) out on my desk for them if they need them. The pencils and erasers are Halloween style, of course. I’ve also got the Counselling Center’s Coping Skills chart right on the wall where both the students and I can see it. I’ve got the academic calendar, Abby’s class schedule and other student services documents available on my desk in a folder so I can quickly reference them for students.
I'm just your average fictional creature, living in a swampland by the sea.