2021 Rippling On

2021 Rippling On

By: Heather Kretschmer

“I believe that we haven’t started to touch the surface of the long-term effects this pandemic will have. Language learning is also about communication, and this has been lost and all the important learning that comes from playing with peers has gone. There are children that no longer speak, children with parents that no longer have jobs, children suffering more abuse than they ever did before as parents are at home. I feel strongly that these issues need to be addressed.”

Think back to 2021:

Infection waves, vaccine development, school closures, online learning, loss, school re-openings, new Covid variants, distancing measures, experimentation, assessment question marks, community, hope, . . .

How did the pandemic affect students and teachers in your school?

What was your response?

Thinking back to 2021 at my university, administrators, instructors, and staff did their best to respond adequately to the constantly changing situation. At my language center, we were still teaching fully online. I clearly remember my students reporting how they were fed a steady diet of readings and recorded lectures in their other courses, and how they were less than thrilled with the amount of time they were spending in front of their screens. In my Business English course, they were still slaves to their screens, but I made sure they also had opportunities to work together in small groups in breakout rooms. The difference was this gave them the opportunity to connect with peers while developing their language skills.

More than anything else, my students’ experience drove home the point that relationships are foundational for learning. In fact, the pandemic forced me to take a deep dive into how to build community in the classroom. Unsurprisingly, the Think Tanks were a treasure trove of ways to foster student-to-student relationships (Think Tank V7i2) and student-to-teacher relationships  (Think Tank V7i10). I gleaned a lot of useful information and practical tips on these topics, which made for better learning experiences not only for my online students in 2021 but also for my onsite students after we returned to campus a year later.

The waves of 2021 have yet to subside. Students and teachers are still feeling the impact of interrupted learning, isolation, and loss. We continue to struggle with knowledge gaps, mental health challenges, and inequity. In my opinion, the topics of the 2021 Think Tanks are just as timely and relevant today as when they were first published. In this June 2023 issue we invite you to reread a selection of Think Tank articles from 2021. See if what you rediscover sends ripples across your classroom.

Heather Kretschmer has been teaching English for over 20 years, primarily in Germany. She earned degrees in German (BA & MA) and TESL (MA) from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Currently she has the privilege of working with Business English students at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany.

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