Teaching in Context

by Gina Merys, Acting Director, Reinert Center

In a recent note to our Spring 2020 Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients, I referred to the experience of the second half of this semester as a “sprint through fog”.  Even for those of us who think about teaching as having infinite contexts, and who spend our days encouraging intentional choices for the changing needs of learners, this semester posed incredible challenges.

I have been continually inspired by the creativity and fortitude instructors at Saint Louis University have shown. Despite having to make a switch to a completely different (and for many, completely new) modality, teaching and learning continued: discoveries were made, art was created, problems were solved, structures were built, arguments were conveyed, texts were analyzed, systems were studied. Through all of this, instructors completed their own scholarship and research, contributed their service to continuing and emerging work of the institution, and cared for loved ones.

At the beginning of the semester, I encouraged reflection on the idea that who we are is how we teach [LINK]. Of course, who we are might be considerably different now than in January. Perhaps as we close this semester when we faced unexpected change by stretching our own and our students’ notions of what can be accomplished, we might add a layer to our contemplation. As we head into summer,

I encourage us all to consider again who we are as humans, and how that affects who we are as teachers and scholars. How do our identities, the condition of our beings, and our contexts shape the ways we approach the content and skills of our disciplines? How do they shape the ways we engage with course design and planning, risk taking and content coverage? How do our contexts, identities or beings color our expectations of student learning and engagement? How do they prevent and encourage student relationships with our disciplines and with learning, with failure and with success?

Although we continue to work remotely, the Reinert Center is open all summer. Please let us know how we can support your teaching as you contemplate a variety of contexts.