PRESIDENT LETTER BLOG
This blog contains an archive of "Greetings from the President" that appeared since January 2020 on the STP home page and in STP News. To view letters from STP Presidents from 2016 through 2019, click here.
2021 STP Presidential Task Forces
Susan A. Nolan, STP President (Seton Hall University)
Task Force on Integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and International Initiatives Across STP: The task force will continue the work on DEI that 2020 President Amy Fineburg initiated. The task force will explore how to more fully integrate STP’s DEI and international initiatives in all we do, including membership, programming, awards, and resources. The task force will examine the structure of the organization, including whether there might be more explicit connections across the five Vice-Presidential areas or whether a new structure would help STP move away from the siloed nature of our current structure. The task force will use information from the newly implemented DEI assessments as well as any assessments that they implement. The task force also will offer suggestions to increase inclusion and equity, including with respect to internationalization, in all areas, including with respect to our membership, leadership, award/grant applicants, and invited speakers. For questions about this Task Force, please email: TF2021Diversity@teachpsych.org
Arlen Garcia (Task Force Chair)
Miami Dade College
Fort Lewis College
Virginia Commonwealth University
Texas State University
Appalachian State University
University of Toronto
George Mason University
University of Mary
University of Western Ontario
Texas Woman’s University
University of Northern Colorado
University of Alaska Southeast
Liaisons from Diversity Committee
University of Michigan
California State University Monterey Bay
Teceta Tormala (Chair, STP Diversity Committee)
Palo Alto University
Task Force for Resources for “Pivot Teaching”: The task force will gather, solicit, and publicize resources for “pivot teaching” – e.g., changing modalities mid-semester, accommodating individual students whose situation has changed, integrating more flexibility into courses generally. The resources might include information on shifting to online, hybrid, or HyFlex modalities, for providing online resources for students in a face-to-face course, and for communicating with students in flexible, creative, and inclusive ways. The task force will prioritize top-notch, evidence-based, student-centered teaching and learning as modalities and other conditions shift. For questions about this Task Force, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenel Cavazos (Task Force Chair)
University of Oklahoma
University of Tennessee
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Morton Ann Gernsbacher
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Larry (Lawrence) Rudiger
University of Vermont
Pacific University – Oregon
Task Force on Statistical Literacy, Reasoning, and Thinking: Guidelines 2.0: STP’s initial peer-reviewed statistical literacy guidelines were published on the STP website in 2014 (see below for links). Since then, there have been far-reaching changes in the ways in which statistics are taught, and the ways in which changes in best practices for research methodology have driven how statistical analyses are approached. The task force will create updated STP guidelines for statistical literacy, reasoning, and thinking to incorporate what we have learned from the open science movement, data ethics initiatives, and new analytical approaches. For questions about this task force, please email: TF2021Statistics@teachpsych.org
· Statistical Literacy in the Introductory Psychology Course
· Statistical Literacy in the Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum
· Statistical Literacy in Psychology: Resources, Activities, and Assessment Methods
Jess Hartnett (Task Force Chair)
Erin Freeman (Chair, Psych Majors Subcommittee)
Garth Neufeld (Chair, Intro to Psych Subcommittee)
Samantha Estrada Aguilera
University of Texas at Tyler
Seton Hall University
The College of Wooster
Georgia Southern University
Washington State University
University of Minnesota
Alison Young Reusser
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Oregon State University
Gwynedd Mercy University
California State University-San Bernardino
University of California, Riverside
2020 is over! At last!
A year ago, I celebrated New Year’s Eve at home in Jersey City, NJ, cooking dinner with my husband (and falling asleep well before midnight). We had flown back that day from a week’s vacation in Colombia, where we had joined dear friends for a holiday visit with their family, whom we were meeting for the first time. With the benefit of hindsight, it all sounds so daring. There was hugging, dancing, and crowding on public transportation. We even shared food!
I was a bit anxious upon my return about getting all my prep done for my spring courses. At that point, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to describe my spring courses as “face-to-face.” Based on my usual teaching load, that would have been like describing mail as “snail mail.” Fast forward to March…
Who could have guessed that travel would soon grind to a halt? That hugging or meeting strangers – your friends’ parents even – would be forbidden? That we would be socially isolating for months and months (and months)? Reading preprints from disciplines far from our own, trying to understand how to thwart a dangerous virus? Developing strategies to combat misinformation? Teaching remotely, while scrambling to develop creative ways to engage and assess? Supporting our students not just in their studies but in their lives (even more than usual) as they faced illness, family difficulties, financial strains, and emotional distress? And all of this compounded by growing awareness of a second longstanding pandemic of racism? Not me.
A year later, we have all learned so much. I have learned from friends, family, colleagues, and students, but also from STP. STP’s resources, new and old, have served as encyclopedic reservoirs of helpful information, including about how to be better at teaching online, increasing student engagement, and practicing anti-racism. And our members have reached out to share resources and insights through STP’s social media. Our Facebook page, in particular, which has more than 16,000 members, has been a source of information, solace, and more than one meme that made me laugh out loud!
It was against this backdrop that I planned my presidential task forces, in the hopes that their work would better situate us for future challenges. I put out a call for task force members months ago, and I am thrilled that so many experienced instructors and scholars volunteered to participate. The members of the task forces are diverse demographically, institutionally, and in terms of their roles; we are lucky to have graduate students and early career psychologists among their numbers, as well as very experienced instructors. And so many task force members are new to service to STP, or in several cases, new even to STP!
We also are fortunate to have experts in each of these areas agree to serve as chairs. I am excited to follow the work of these task forces as these strong and experienced leaders guide their talented colleagues. I hope that many of you will reach out to these task forces if you have ideas or suggestions. You can see rosters of the task forces here .
Task Force on Integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and International Initiatives Across STP: The DEI/International task force, chaired by Arlen Garcia, will continue the work on DEI that 2020 President Amy Fineburg initiated. The task force will explore how to more fully integrate STP’s DEI and international initiatives in all we do, including membership, programming, awards, and resources. The task force will examine the structure of the organization, including whether there might be more explicit connections across the five Vice-Presidential areas or whether a new structure would help STP move away from the siloed nature of our current structure. The task force also will offer suggestions to increase inclusion and equity, including with respect to internationalization, in all areas, including with respect to our membership, leadership, award/grant applicants, and invited speakers. To provide input related to this Task Force, please email: TF2021Diversity@teachpsych.org.
Task Force for Resources for “Pivot Teaching”: The task force, chaired by Jenel Cavazos, will gather, solicit, and publicize resources for “pivot teaching” – e.g., changing modalities mid-semester, accommodating individual students whose situation has changed, integrating more flexibility into courses generally. The resources might include information on shifting to online, hybrid, or HyFlex modalities, for providing online resources for students in a face-to-face course, and for communicating with students in flexible, creative, and inclusive ways. The task force will prioritize top-notch, evidence-based, student-centered teaching and learning as modalities and other conditions shift. For questions related to this Task Force, please email: email@example.com.
Task Force on Statistical Literacy, Reasoning, and Thinking: Guidelines 2.0: This task force is particularly close to my heart because I chaired the first iteration of this task force in 2012. The outcomes of our peer-reviewed statistical literacy guidelines were published on the STP website in 2014. Since then, there have been far-reaching changes in the ways in which statistics is taught, and the ways in which changes in best practices for research methodology have driven how statistical analyses are approached. The task force will create updated STP guidelines for statistical literacy, reasoning, and thinking to incorporate what we have learned from the open science movement, data ethics initiatives, and new analytical approaches. The task force will be chaired by Jess Hartnett, with Garth Neufeld chairing the subcommittee targeting the introductory psychology course and Erin Freeman chairing the subcommittee targeting the psychology major. For any questions related to this Task Force, please email: TF2021Statistics@teachpsych.org.
I look forward to serving as STP President this year, as we (hopefully) emerge from pandemic restrictions. STP is made up of a remarkable group of people who care deeply about teaching and about the scholarship of teaching and learning. I have two new year’s resolutions. Most importantly, to emerge from this pandemic, with support from the STP community, as a better instructor and scholar and ally to members of marginalized groups. And secondly, to travel again, ideally with locals, and hopefully back to Colombia where I will dance and hug and crowd onto public transportation with abandon!
When I taught high school, I noticed students often seemed to be wishing their lives away. They wished time would pass quickly because only in the future would they be able to do what they wanted to do. They would wish for homecoming festivities to get here. They would wish it were winter holidays or spring break. They would wish it were graduation or even just Friday. As an adult in their lives, it seemed to be my job to quash these wishes and remind them that they only have the time they have now. I would admonish them not to wish their lives away and live in the moment, seizing the day and counting the rosebuds while they may. I wasn’t trying to be a party pooper. Seizing the day can be a lot of fun, and rosebuds do smell nice.
But, honestly, these days, I’m finding myself wishing this year away. I am wishing for a day when any or all of the various vaccines are widely available and effective. I’m wishing for the day I can travel again – anywhere, please. I wish for a time when my children can be back in school full-time with their amazing teachers and friends. I wish the future to be here now because I am tired of all this. I know you are as well. 2020 has been a year for the history books, and it will get the asterisk designation every single time it is mentioned going forward. We will qualify what we did this year with prepositional phrases like “for a pandemic,” “amidst racial violence and trauma,” and “during a stressful election year.” Whatever we did or did not accomplish, it was the best that could happen for a pandemic amidst racial violence and trauma during a stressful election year. Whew.
Even as I wish for this time to pass, I am grateful for my time as president of STP in 2020.
· The Executive Committee is one of the best groups of people I’ve worked with. I’ve been a member of the EC as a VP and as President for five years now, and no matter who has been elected to serve, they were dedicated, professional, interesting, and sharp people. I am honored to be among the people you members of STP have chosen for leadership. I am the first president of STP to have taught high school psychology as my primary teaching experience, and our community is the only one I am aware of that welcomes high school teachers as peers. I will always be grateful to the members and leaders of STP who have set that standard for our community.
· I am honored to be a part of diversity, equity, and inclusion work for STP this year. I chose to make diversification of our membership my top presidential priority this year, and the work became even more urgent as the year progressed. I am honored that leaders in STP shared their expertise and experience to craft our diversity statement, to participate in my APA Presidential Hour panel, to edit and contribute to diversity initiatives with our journal, and to develop recommendations for diversifying our membership. This work has inspired and challenged me, and I hope that STP can be an example for how an organization can make real systemic change for the better.
· I am so sad we could not gather in person for our annual conference, but I am grateful that we were able to offer a virtual conference – and we’re continuing to offer it! All members can still access presentations from virtual ACT, so I encourage you to login or to join and login as soon as you can. If you need a little uplift as this year winds down, experiencing the quality presentations and conversations from virtual ACT 2020 may be just what you need.
· These blog posts have been surprisingly fulfilling to write. As I shared from the beginning, I haven’t really found success being a blogger on my own. I overthink and overedit myself, making it hard to be timely and, well, concise. I am grateful to Tom Pusateri, Kelley Haynes-Mendez, and Susan Nolan for giving their input off and on this year to make these posts readable. And thank you for reading them.
I am leaving this presidency grateful for my time even though it wasn’t at all what I was hoping for.
I am grateful that STP is financially sound and was poised to weather this challenging year.
I am grateful that you all have shared your experiences throughout this year with each other in the effort to make even a moment of this uncomfortable time a little less uncomfortable.
I am grateful that I get to be a little part of the history of this organization, standing on the shoulders of the giants who have come before me and hopefully being a solid perch for future leaders to stand on.
May you find something to be grateful for in this pandemic amidst racial violence and trauma during a stressful election year. If you can find gratitude, may it carry you through the rest of this year and into that future we wish was already here.
Thanks for letting me lead you this year.
Take good care, all.
STP President 2020
It’s November, and like everyone in the US, I’m reflecting on the presidency – MY presidency of STP, of course (that’s what y’all are reflecting on, too, right?!?). My presidential year is winding down, and what a year it’s been. I’m trying to focus on the positives, like our successful virtually delivered conference; the amazing collaborations about remote emergency instruction and online teaching; and the open, honest, and reflective discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion within STP. I’m so glad you got to hear from Susan Nolan last month in the Presidential blog! Susan is going to be a great leader for STP in 2021, and I will be so excited to see her presidential initiatives come to fruition! And congratulations to Linda Woolf, our incoming president-elect! I’m looking forward to more strong leadership from both of these excellent colleagues and friends in the years to come.
I want to give a huge shout out to Jordan Triosi, our ACT Director, for leading the work to convert our in-person gathering into a virtual one. He and his committee along with Lindsay Masland (incoming ACT Director) made a huge jug of sweet lemonade out of the COVID lemons we were dealt and gave us all a fabulous experience. The speakers were spot on. The tech worked well. The good times were had. And you can enjoy all the talks on our YouTube channel for the near future (or until the internet changes, which could be next week)!
Good has come from this extraordinary year, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the pain and sadness this year has brought as well. Teaching has never been as hard as it has been this year. I’ve always believed teachers to be superstars, but this year’s efforts have convinced me that teachers are superheroes. Typically, teachers have it hard trying to convince people that what they have to teach is both interesting and important. Being successful at that is harder than it looks! But this year has shown us that interesting and important are often the least of our concerns. People are sick. People are exhausted. People are overwhelmed. People are afraid. People are traumatized. But every day, many of those people – you teachers – are waking up, breathing deeply, digging in, and teaching. You’re learning new modalities of delivery and presentation. You are figuring out how to ease concerns and soothe anxiety. And the job is getting done. It may not be the job you were hoping to accomplish. It may not be the best work you’ve ever done. But it’s the best work you’ve ever done in a pandemic year full of racial trauma and re-reckoning, societal uncertainty, and toilet paper shortages. So, please, slap your favorite superhero brand on your chest and call yourself proud of what you’ve been able to do.
In the last few weeks of this tumultuous year, I’ll be reflecting on what I’ve been through, what I’ve overcome, what I’ve wished I’d done better, what I hope for the future. I’ve seen people lose loved ones. I’ve worried for myself and those I care about. I’ve been outraged by injustice, incompetence, and cruelty. I’ve tried to adapt to challenge and change. I wish I had more time to learn and plan. I hope we will find a way to cure or at least live successfully with this virus. I hope we can see and smile with our students again someday very, very soon.
Take care, all. You’re not alone.
by Susan Nolan, STP President-Elect
I’m excited to announce the 2021 Presidential Task Forces! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in serving on any of these task forces, or if you have any questions.
Task Force on Integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and International Initiatives Across STP
The task force will continue the work on DEI that 2020 President Amy Fineburg initiated. The task force will explore how to integrate STP’s DEI and international initiatives more fully in all we do, including membership, programming, awards, and resources. The task force will examine the structure of the organization, including whether there might be more explicit connections across the five Vice-Presidential areas or whether a new structure would help STP move away from the siloed nature of our current structure. The task force will use information from the newly implemented DEI assessments as well as any assessments that they implement. The task force also will offer suggestions to increase inclusion and equity, including with respect to internationalization, in all areas, including with respect to our membership, leadership, award/grant applicants, and invited speakers.
Task Force for Resources for “Pivot Teaching”
The task force will gather, solicit, and publicize resources for “pivot teaching” – e.g., changing modalities mid-semester, accommodating individual students whose situation has changed, integrating more flexibility into courses generally. The resources might include information on shifting to online, hybrid, or HyFlex modalities, for providing online resources for students in a face-to-face course, and for communicating with students in flexible, creative, and inclusive ways. The task force will prioritize top-notch, evidence-based, student-centered teaching and learning as modalities and other conditions shift.
Task Force on Statistical Literacy, Reasoning, and Thinking: Guidelines 2.0
STP’s initial peer-reviewed statistical literacy guidelines were published on the STP website in 2014 (see below for links). Since then, there have been far-reaching changes in the ways in which statistics are taught, and the ways in which changes in best practices for research methodology have driven how statistical analyses are approached. The task force will create updated STP guidelines for statistical literacy, reasoning, and thinking to incorporate what we have learned from the open science movement, data ethics initiatives, and new analytical approaches.
· Statistical Literacy in the Introductory Psychology Course
· Statistical Literacy in the Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum
· Statistical Literacy in Psychology: Resources, Activities, and Assessment Methods
It’s September of 2020, so it’s been 3 months since the murder of George Floyd and roughly two weeks since the murder of Jacob Blake. Protests are ongoing as people mobilize to speak out against racism and to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. In this time of protest and calls for justice, many organizations have put out diversity statements that seek to affirm commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. After much work by member leaders of STP, we now bring you this Statement on Addressing Systemic Racism and Inequity in STP and our commitment to critical reflection and assessment, representation, equity, and inclusivity.
This statement is the product of pursuing those values. I worked with three members of the Executive Committee to draft and edit this statement – special thanks to VP for Diversity and International Relations Kelley Haynes-Mendez, Secretary Stephanie Afful, and President-Elect Susan Nolan for their work on this statement. Our first attempt at a statement was clumsy, at best. It came across as defensive and performative, even though our intention from the beginning was to avoid such things. STP’s Diversity Committee, led by Teceta Tormala, reviewed the first draft, and they responded with honesty, clarity, and appropriate frustration. Their critical reflection took us back to the drawing board, and we revised the statement to present to the Diversity Committee and the Executive Committee for review. With some minor edits from the EC, we sent the statement to APA for review (as is required for all APA Divisions seeking to put out such a statement). APA responded favorably to the statement, calling it “strong and compelling” and “a model for our association-wide efforts.” This positive feedback from APA would not have happened without the work of the Diversity Committee, specifically Teceta Tormala, Dina Gohar, and Leslie Berntsen. My deepest gratitude to each of them for helping us communicate the values of STP in ways that will help drive our work moving forward.
This statement is STP’s public commitment to all current and future teachers of psychology to pursue the values we outline in the document. The Executive Committee is openly and publicly asking that we be held accountable about how we can make these values a reality in the work of the Society. By being a member of this Society, we call on each of you to uphold these values in your classrooms and work contexts. Recognizing inequity and pursuing the values of critical reflection and assessment, representation, equity, and inclusivity allows us create systems that are antiracist, benefiting everyone and not just a few.
Read STP’s Statement on Addressing Systemic Racism and Inequity in STP here.
Provide feedback on diversity issues and accountability concerns to email@example.com.
Amy C. Fineburg, PhD
Ok, so, the pandemic is not getting better and the plans for this academic year probably won’t work. I’m predicting that, at some point, we will have stretches of time where every day will be like a snow day – will we meet today or not? So, let’s take a detour from the angst and worry over Academic Year 2020-2021 and celebrate some truly wonderful psychology educators.
One of my privileges as STP President is to bestow Presidential Citations to two colleagues “who have made extraordinary life-time contributions to the Society and/or to the teaching of psychology.” The two people that I have honored this year are among the best teachers and people I know.
Loretta Neal McGregor, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at Arkansas State University and is President of the Faculty Senate. Loretta earned her bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University, her master’s degree from Emporia State University, and her doctorate from Wichita State University in Human Factors Psychology. She has taught in higher education for almost 30 years. She served for 8 years as department chair at Arkansas State in the Psychology and Counseling Department. Prior to her tenure at ASU, she was an assistant professor at Southern Arkansas University and her alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University.
Loretta has served the teaching of psychology for many years as an advocate for quality undergraduate education for all students. She has taught courses across the undergraduate psychology curriculum, including research methods, statistics, and introduction to psychology. She has been a member of APA’s Board of Educational Affairs and served as Division 2’s (STP’s) Associate Director for Society Programming for the APA Convention. She was a long-time Advanced Placement (AP) Reader and Table Leader, helping to ensure quality scoring of AP Exams for students around the world. Loretta is one of the most preeminent scholars of the life of fellow Arkansan Mamie Phipps Clark, the pioneering social psychologist who, along with her husband Kenneth Clark, conducted the “Black Doll/White Doll” studies that ultimately influenced the 1955 Brown v. Board of Education decision from the United States Supreme Court. Loretta is a sought-after speaker on teaching, learning, and Dr. Clark’s contributions to the field. She is an alumnae of the Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology (LIWP). She is the first African American awarded a Presidential Citation from Division 2.
Kristin Habashi Whitlock is the AP Psychology teacher at Davis High School in Bountiful, Utah. She also teaches courses at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Kristin has been teaching AP Psychology at Davis since the course’s inception in 1992, and she has been involved with the AP Reading since 2001. She has been a Question Leader, Rubric Master, Table Leader, and Reader at the Reading and has served as an Advisor to the College Board and on the AP Psychology Development Committee, which is charged with developing questions for the AP Psychology Exam.
Kristin has been active in promoting quality high school psychology instruction for most of her career. She helped found and directs the Utah Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (U-TOPSS) Fall Conference and is a member of the APA’s Introductory Psychology Initiative group. She served with me on the Steering Committee for the APA National Summit for High School Psychology, co-chairing the “Psychology is a Science” strand. She has served as chair of TOPSS and has presented at just about every major psychology and psychology-affiliated conference that exists, including NITOP, ACT, NCSS, and Psychology One. Kristin is generous in sharing good psychology instruction with others, including being a co-author of such resources as the Barron’s AP Q & A Psychology book and presenting at AP Summer Institutes each year. Kristin is the first high school psychology teacher awarded a Presidential Citation from Division 2.
I am sad that I won’t be able to see them in person this year at our Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT) since we had to move that event to an online experience. So, I made some lemonade out of those lemons and recorded a Zoom-cast with Loretta and Kristin to explore some of their perspectives on teaching and to show you all what amazing, caring, excellent teachers and people they are. Please enjoy our friendly chat.
Speaking of ACT and going virtual, please take a moment to listen to me, Tom Pusateri (our Executive Director) and Jordan Triosi (Director of ACT Programming) discuss our decision making process for going virtual and what we are looking forward to for this year. Thanks to Eric Landrum and the PsychSessions podcast team for taking the time to interview us and share how much we will miss seeing everyone in person this fall. (And take some time to browse around the PsychSessions site to find interviews with amazing psychologists and psychology teachers!).
2020 STP President
I had hoped that, by now – July 2020 – we would be in a different place. I had hoped that, seeing the relative success of “flattening the curve” and social distancing from April and early May, we would have a better handle on how to live while waiting for a vaccine or reliable treatment for COVID-19. We needed to have a handle on all this as the fall semester looms large at summer’s end. As each day goes by, it often feels like any hope we have had for a full resumption of normalcy is fading fast.
The more I reflect on this time in our history, the more I wonder if getting back to “normal” is really what we should strive to do. The last month has shown us that “normal” for some is oppression for others. We are reminded that inequities in the systems and in ourselves erode the very goals we as teachers strive to achieve. For as long as I’ve been a teacher (since late last century), I have heard calls to change from the “industrial age” school model to one that feels more modern. I’ve heard calls to change everything from the way academic years are structured to how classrooms are managed to how curriculum is developed. As I think about what I would want for my children – a first-year college student and a rising fourth grader – I want a new normal for schooling, one that may upend some cherished traditions but that might just, in the end, help my children see equity in a system that often promises more than it delivers. Here are some ways I’d like to see schooling change as a result of our modern and difficult times:
Learning is the constant, but time is variable. Learning and time don’t always go in sync. Some people learn some things very quickly. Others take longer. Usually, the speed at which learning happens differs within the person. For instance, a person who might learn a language quickly might take longer to learn how to play an instrument. Someone decided at some point that learning calculus in high school should take an academic term (anywhere from 6 weeks to nine months). Someone else decided that earning a degree in calculus should take four years.
Many teaching practices are designed to manipulate this learning-time dynamic to make learning happen within the time limit. We make students sit through an entire course to earn credits even if they can demonstrate already acquired knowledge. We give extra time and offer incompletes (which must be changed by a certain time) to help students who need more time to learn. What if these time factors – length of academic terms, scheduling of the school day/week, when learning assessments occur – could be more flexible? What if the learning was the main goal instead of completing things “on time?”
At no time in educational history have we had available the technological tools needed to reach students when they are not right in front of us. We can communicate and interact with students virtually like never before. How can we capitalize on this to be able to make learning the focus? How can we reclaim time for ourselves and our students by being flexible about it? I’d like to see more schools consider how to rethink daily and term schedules that allow for flexibility with time without sacrificing – and in fact, encouraging – learning.
This type of change, though, would require our general culture to get on board. Our school day and week are based on when parents need childcare to work most jobs. The timeline for finishing the associate’s or bachelor’s degree is based on when we believe people should be living and working on their own as adults. There is little, if any, good exploration of whether an 8am-3pm, Monday through Friday schedule is ideal for learning with children. And, as we’ve seen with this season of COVID-19, I would argue that there is little real evidence that work must be done on a 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday schedule, either. As we consider reopening schools this fall, why can’t we explore how a more fluid school schedule can help students learn better? We know distributed practice is better. We know that cognitive load is important to consider. We know playtime/free time for students contributes to greater social-emotional learning. Could we adapt to a school schedule that allows for more flexibility of when learning happens? COVID-19 is giving us an opportunity to give it a try in a way that might just save lives in the process.
Inclusive teaching must be the norm, not the exception. If we can adopt the idea that learning should be the focus, not time, then why would anyone NOT try to make teaching inclusive? Inclusive teaching centers on making sure students feel welcome to learn. By providing structure, checking our biases, and meeting students where they are, we can remove so many barriers to learning, and the results will likely amaze us. Students aren’t coming to us from a cookie-cutter factory model of learning. They bring an amazingly complex dynamic of personal and societal variables along with them, making it the ultimate exciting challenge to figure out how to help that students learn best. For most students, turning the learning light on isn’t difficult. It may take learning to pronounce their name correctly or explaining a procedure again patiently. It may take believing their story of hardship, even if it seems incredible. Or it may take not asking them to explain at all, but giving help anyway.
COVID-19 is affecting all of us in ways we only imagined before. How many times during this time have we felt the need to apologize for interruptions by our children or our pets or our roommates or partners during our Zoom calls? Do we blur our backgrounds or turn the books on our shelves around to avoid people’s curiosity (at best) or critiquing (at worst) our lived experiences? We hope our work colleagues will understand when we can’t meet a deadline during COVID or have an errant cat show affection during a video call. Let’s learn from COVID that inclusive teaching allows us to have that understanding for our students.
The power of education must extend beyond our classroom doors. I became a teacher because I wanted to “pay it forward.” I grew up in poverty (although I credit my parents for making our home feel richer than it was), and my educational attainment has allowed me the provide my family the financially comfortable life I didn’t have then. Because of my experiences, I have long been a champion for the power of education for my students. Yet, I realize that the level playing field I work daily to build isn’t guaranteed beyond my classroom door. BIPOC students, students with disabilities, students without documentation, students who speak other languages better than English, students from poverty, LGBTQIA students, etc., could be as educated as I am but are not given respect, deference, justice, or even life in the world.
We cannot continue to sell students on a dream. If we want to see the promise of education fulfilled, we need to work in our own communities to be sure that students can realize the promise. They must not be denied housing or loans or jobs or access. They must be treated fairly and equitably. We must work to make space for our students in the world and not just in our classrooms. We must fight for systems and procedures that bring equity, not just hope for it. We must look at results and data and be willing to see when and why things aren’t working – and then change them. We must speak up. We should also be willing to step aside and make space. Our advocacy for students must extend to the world in which we all share together if we are ever to see the dream we are giving students realized.
We can be the change we need right now. You might not have any control or say over what your institution decides about school and work in the fall. The lack of voice and choice in the larger scope of things will be frustrating and frightening in this time where these issues can have life-or-death consequences. I hope that your principal or provost is considering how to keep people safe.
As you wait to find out, consider using some of these resources to help as you plan for whatever the fall may hold:
I had wished that, by now, we would’ve been able to see the end of this COVID-19 tunnel. I had wished that we could see each other at the APA Convention in Washington, but thanks to Missy Beers (our APA Convention Chair) and Jamie McMinn (our outgoing APA Convention Chair), we have a lineup of great virtual speakers . My presidential “hour” will be a Zoom panel discussion with five BIPOC STP members discussing their work and how we can build a more inclusive STP moving forward. Thanks in advance to EC VPs Meera Komarraju and Kelley Haynes-Mendez ; Diversity chair Teceta Tormala ; Membership Chair Rita Obeid ; and Diversity committee member Dina Gohar for serving on this panel and sharing their work.
I had wished that it would’ve been possible for us to hold our Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT) in person in Pittsburgh in October. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing the end yet, and we can’t gather in person in October. I’m proud of Jordan Triosi (our ACT Director) and Lindsay Masland (our incoming ACT Director) who have worked hard to come up with a new plan for a virtual ACT that will be available FOR FREE to all members of STP. I look forward to this opportunity, and I look even more forward to seeing you all in person again when we can be safe together.
Wear a mask. Keep your physical distance. Look out for each other.
In August of 2019, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones spearheaded a special issue of the New York Times Magazine entitled The 1619 Project, "a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative." The magazine showcased historians, writers, and artists to reflect on the impact slavery has had on the American – and the African American – consciousness. As Ibram X. Kendi points out in his book How to Be an Antiracist, racism didn’t start with the arrival of 20 or so Angolans on a Virginia beach. A Portuguese scholar invented a hierarchy of skin color conflated with generalized personal qualities to honor his patron, Prince Henry the Navigator (who, incidentally, never really navigated himself outside of Portugal). This invention not only took hold as justification for chattel slavery of Black people, it persists as justification for continued personal and societal racism long after slavery-as-America-has-known-it was legally abolished.
Once again, the United States is confronting its racism. Social media, for good and for ill, is amplifying the tragedies of the day and the responses to them. We have watched people being killed. We have watched protesters march. We have watched anger being displayed. We have watched monuments come down. We have watched all of it in real time. Social media is allowing us to replay events on demand, unlike how those before us were able to consume the news of the day. It is exposing even more brightly the consequences of racism for all to see. Non-White people have been telling about the effects of racism all along, though.
I hope people listen. I hope people listen to Black and Brown voices about what needs to be done. I hope people act on what needs to be done. I hope psychologists continue to tease out the mechanisms of racism so we can more effectively combat it in our society and in ourselves. I hope we all continue the long march toward freedom and equity.
For those of you who identify as a psychology teacher of color, I hope you are receiving the care and support you need in these traumatizing times. For those of you who teach students of color, I hope you are finding words and actions that care for and support your students in these traumatizing times. For those of you who do not identify as a psychology teacher of color, I hope you are listening and following the guidance of Black and Brown colleagues and friends who want you as an ally and advocate.
As we journey onward, I am asking what the Society for the Teaching of Psychology can do to move us all along the path toward freedom and equity. How can we as teachers be antiracist? How can we teach students to be antiracist? What do teachers need to be better at identifying and responding to racism? What can we as teachers do to help the discipline of psychology be a more inclusive science? I have written before about my presidential initiative to diversify our membership, and a task force is working this year to develop a process for becoming a more inclusive Society. An inclusive STP, though, is only as effective as the people who participate. I hope you bring your voice, expertise, and skills – and listen to the voices, expertise, and skills of others – to help continue building an STP that helps all teachers of psychology gives psychology away to all students.
Take care, fellow teachers.
Welcome to May, which in my world doesn’t look like it will be much different than April. So, let’s call this season “Maypril.” Whether we get to have a distinct June, July, and August will depend on how well this reopening experiment goes. I’m in one of the experimental groups here in Alabama, but we’re getting a lower dose of the IV than our neighbors in Georgia…
Since the beginning of our isolation responses to this pandemic, people have been waxing philosophic about what might change as a result of our current “normal.” People have been predicting all sorts of societal improvements like a reversing of global climate change, the end of racism, more people getting exercise, a rejection of constant technology dependence, and more man buns. Consider that pollution seems to be clearing up in many places, gas prices are ridiculously low, and my husband’s hair is getting pretty long. Unfortunately, racism still seems alive and well, and my 8-year-old son lives for his 2 hours of entertainment screen time each day. Some things look like they are changing while others remain the same – which is pretty much the same as things have always been, come to think of it.
I think about how other momentous events in my lifetime have changed me and the world around me. I remember watching the Challenger launch live at school in 1986. Afterwards, we rarely watched live events in school. I remember being a new high school teacher the year of the Columbine tragedy. Afterwards, I would make plans in my head for how I could protect my students from an active shooter. I watched the 9-11 attacks unfold in real time. Afterwards, traveling by plane hasn’t been the same. COVID19 has thrown us all for a loop, and, on some levels, we will be forever changed because of it. For a long while, we might be wary of close contact with strangers. We might look askance at people coughing in public. We might be frustrated with people not wearing masks in public.
What will change about teaching and learning? Will more teachers be incorporating good practices in distance/online learning? Will teachers discuss what content or assignments to prioritize in case more closings happen? Will our grading practices and deadlines be better at considering student life circumstances? Will we balance work and life better?
We teach psychology, so we know that, in all likelihood, people will drift back to habits and preferences from before the pandemic faster than the predictions hope. We have spent – and probably will spend – a long time under these cautious conditions, and new habits surely will form. We might eat in more. We might spend more time talking to each other. We might do better at distance learning in the future. We might keep the daily walk ritual going. We will also get manicures and haircuts. We will eat out and shop in stores again. Our children will play with other children again.
I encourage you during this extraordinary season to reflect on what you want to return to and what you want to be different. What for you has been precious about this time? What has been unmanageable? What will you hope to regain? What will you never return to? Connect with me on our STP Facebook page and on Twitter (just tag me - @afineburg in your @teachpsych tweet) to share your visions of our future as people and as teachers of psychology.
Here’s hoping our post-COVID world learns lessons from pre- and thru-COVID that leave us better than before.