Lawyering skills professor, law librarian, licensed attorney . . . and video producer? The COVID-19 pandemic caused most of us to take on unexpected roles, both inside and outside of the classroom. Even so, I never would have predicted that one of my new roles would be a combination of screenwriter, actor, director, editor, and producer of a series of video lectures that I used in my newly-flipped lawyering skills classroom.
COVID-19 has caused havoc in the world as we know it, altering every aspect of life, including education. The pandemic forced me and other educators to teach online, and by doing so, it has made me a better teacher. I now (1) employ more teaching techniques; (2) assess more frequently; and (3) engage every student. As I emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, I have reflected on the positive lessons I learned from teaching online, lessons that I plan to bring with me when I return to the classroom.
Like most of my colleagues who switched to Zoom classes almost overnight in March 2020, my life changed very dramatically when quarantine began. The various conferences I had planned to attend fell like dominoes, and our University announced a policy that it would not approve any travel for the foreseeable future. The school was locked down overnight. Thus, with all of my plans cancelled indefinitely (including going anywhere at all), I was left with a lot of scheduled time that suddenly became unscheduled time.
The 2020-2021 academic year felt like an eon. It was an eeeeeeeeoooooooonnnnnn—a tiny word, suspended, stretched into an unrecognizable form.
That eon ran its course in a flash. Time flew even as it stood still, with every moment predictably offering novel and surprising challenges. Somehow, the spring semester abruptly ended when we were simultaneously hitting our stride and suffering burnout. A seventy-five-minute class on Zoom often felt equivalent to twenty minutes in a physical classroom.
Using Entry Ticket Attendance: Moving Beyond “Pass the Sign-In Sheet” to Engage With Each Student, Every Day
When I left private practice to start teaching legal writing in the fall of 2019, I never thought much about how to take attendance. But teaching during a pandemic has been full of disruptions and unexpected surprises, and here I was, scrambling for a head-count system that would work during a school year unlike any other. Some days, class was fully remote. Other days, it was hybrid, with half the class attending in person, and half remaining remote. No telling how long that would hold either, as change seemed like one of the only constants.
While you can never be certain you’re accurately tracking changes in student performance over time (damn you, Heisenberg!), it’s uncontroversial to note that today’s students often struggle to master the metacognitive skills required to write. Thus, today’s LRW teacher must help students develop their own practice of writing, in addition to teaching the specifics of legal writing. Online teaching during the pandemic has only underscored the value of helping students develop practices they can use outside of class to increase comprehension and productivity.
This issue contains mini-essays by the following authors on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their lives:
Mirielle Butler, UC Berkeley
John Cook, Elon University
Megan Davis, University of Houston
Olympia Duhart, Nova Southeastern University
Rebekah Hanley, University of Oregon
Anne Johnson, Mercer University
Megan McAlpin, University of Oregon
Mary Ann Robinson, Villanova University
Joyce Rosenberg, University of Kansas
Robyn Stanton, Stanford University