On Sept. 1, 2020, the Morgridge College of Education received the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. As a recipient of the annual HEED Award — a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion — Morgridge College will be featured, along with 89 other recipients, in the November 2020 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

“We are appreciative of this recognition as it affirms our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and are humbled to be honored with the other HEED recipients,” said Dean Karen Riley. “We know however, that we still have a lot of work to do in advancing DEI, and are committed to an active approach to working for social justice.”

This is the second year Morgridge College has been selected by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The college first received the award in the 2018-19 academic year.

“The HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees — and best practices for both — continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”

Other recipients of the 2020 HEED Award are:

Adelphi University
Arkansas State University
Augustana College (IL)
Ball State University
Brown University
California State University, Fresno
California State University, Fullerton
California State University, Northridge
California State University San Marcos
Case Western Reserve University
Central Washington University
Clemson University
Columbia University in the City of New York
Cuyahoga Community College
Davenport University
East Carolina University
El Paso County Community College District
Florida State University
Framingham State University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia State University
Grand Valley State University
Greenville Technical College
Hillsborough Community College
Indiana University Bloomington
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Kansas State University
Kent State University
Lawrence University
Lehigh University
Louisiana State University
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Miami University
Millersville University
Ohio University
Oklahoma State University
Oregon State University
Pikes Peak Community College
Regis College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Santa Rosa Junior College
Seminole State College of Florida
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Stetson University College of Law
SUNY Buffalo State College
SUNY Old Westbury
Swarthmore College
Texas A&M University
Texas Christian University
Texas Tech University
The University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Missouri-Saint Louis
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Tulsa
Towson University
Union College, NY
University at Albany, State University of New York
University of Central Florida
University of Cincinnati
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Dayton
University of Georgia
University of Houston
University of Houston Law Center
University of Houston-Downtown
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Kentucky
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
University of Louisville
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
University of North Florida
University of North Texas
University of Oregon
University of Pittsburgh of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education
University of Rochester
University of South Florida
University of West Florida
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
West Virginia University
Western Michigan University
Whitworth University
William & Mary
William Marsh Rice University
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
Xavier University

For more information about the 2020 HEED Award, visit insightintodiversity.com.

Dr. Doug Clements, co-director of Marsico Institute (Marsico), has been named principal investigator on a new Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant to more extensively study children’s learning using video and data from Marsico’s previous IES grant, Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics. Co-principal investigators on this project are Drs. Julie Sarama, also co-director of Marsico, and Dr. Traci Kutaka, research associate for Marsico.

The earlier grant was a series of eight studies evaluating the efficacy of using a learning trajectories approach to mathematics instruction. These experiments showed that a learning trajectories approach fostered the development of early mathematics skills that are predictive of later school achievement.

This time around, Kutaka and her colleague Dr. Pavel Chernyavskiy from the University of Wyoming, have developed new questions and research designs. The team will dig deeper into one of these studies to determine precisely how kindergarten children’s problem-solving strategies vary across different types of arithmetic story problems and how they evolve over the course of successful teaching. The team also will use these analyses to construct two novel indicators of instructional efficacy: modal strategy sophistication and strategy breadth. These indicators will account for patterns of strategy use over time, application of strategies to increasingly complex arithmetic problem types, and instructor feedback.

According to Sarama, “New IES funding allows us to leverage hundreds of hours of video collected within a randomized design to better understand both children’s thinking and learning from scientifically-designed instruction and to benefit the field with new tools for future studies.”

The Marsico team will carry out the study in two phases. In the initial phase, the team will watch and code videos of instructional sessions captured during the previously completed efficacy trial of a learning-trajectories approach. During phase two, the researchers will estimate hierarchical ordered logit models to produce patterns of strategy use over time – within and between instructional sessions – for particular story problem structures. These models will then inform the construction of two novel indicators of instructional efficacy.

“At the core of learning trajectories is research on children’s thinking. This study will extend this research, providing both researchers and practitioners with a new lens for noticing, understanding, and supporting this thinking and its development,” said Clements.

The project has been funded, in whole, by the Institute of Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

This year, we held the Summer 2020 MCE Day of Celebration to celebrate our graduate students on Friday, Aug. 21 at 1 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time). While we couldn’t celebrate in person this year, we recorded a very special video to honor our students. Watch the video on our MCE Day of Celebration page.

Cecilia Orphan, PhD, assistant professor in the Morgridge College of Education’s Higher Education Department, was recently quoted in an article by Chalkbeat Colorado. The article, “Colorado hopes a new higher ed funding formula will make a difference for students. It might not be easy,” dives deep into the latest update to Colorado’s education funding formula, which uses seven criteria to judge community and state colleges and universities. Dr. Orphan and colleague Dr. Denisa Gándara, a Southern Methodist University assistant professor of higher education, both shared their worries about how competition created by the funding model affects students.

“Orphan said funding by outcomes in some states reduced coordination among schools because they were competing to attract certain groups of students. But she applauded Colorado higher education leaders for showing that they are willing to work together with state policymakers to rally around shared goals.

‘With the recent change to focus more explicitly on racial equity and first-generation students and students from Colorado, that is really exciting,’ she said.

At Morgridge College, social justice is at the core of our community, academics and student life. Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion goes beyond theory. It is woven into the fabric of the College with a commitment to underserved populations in tangible, real-world ways. Whether it’s opening doors of opportunity, students blazing new trails of inclusive research, or faculty leading the nation-wide diversity conversation, Morgridge’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion makes an impact.

July, 17 2020 — I would like to state that we are living in sacred time. I acknowledge that this claim may feel out of synch with the compelling and urgent needs of the climate crisis, coronavirus, economic decline, and calls for social justice. Any one of these challenges of modern life on earth will require significant amounts of time, talent, and treasure. Taken as a constellation of tests they can fell overwhelming and paralyzing. I know because it is easier for me, these days, to slide into darker emotions and a sense of oppression then to act. I wonder how one person can embody enough agency to change the world in these times. Yet, we are living in a sacred time. A time of unusual opportunity to release the fullness of human flourishing. Sacred time provides a way of integrating the competing impulses of paralysis and action.

Sacred has religious connotations but according to Mariam-Webster it can mean anything or anyone “entitled to reverence and respect.” I think that our collected human experience is worthy of reverence and respect. The challenges are serious. They deserve intentionality and attentiveness not irreverence and disrespect. And the opportunities for meaningful, just, and inclusive changes in healthcare, education, economics, and policy as equally compelling. The possibilities are too rich to pass over, no matter how hard or frightening they may be. To be in sacred relationship, for me, means to act in new ways that build rather than break down connections with self and others. Social distancing does not require isolation from the needs of the earth, people, and institutions in this moment. They require reverence and respect.

I love teaching because it is my students who often show me ways of turning challenge into sacred action; darkness into light. Their words and deeds invite me to see the world with new eyes. To see agency when none seemed present before. For instance, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic I was talking to students about taking care of each other and how the university was approaching instructional changes. It was abundantly clear that something unusual was happening in our collected lives. Fear and anxiety were rising. One of my students made the observation: “All it takes is switching one letter to go from scared to sacred”. I was brought up short in my thinking and emotional response. Her comment offered a way to reframe my lived-experience. To be “scared” but also open to elements of the “sacred” as well. To give reverence and respect to the paradox of scared and sacred inhabiting the same space in my mind and heart.

I can follow my student’s advice and move from a state of scared isolation by looking for and engaging in experiences worthy of reverence and respect. Treating the lives of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples as sacred. Empowering students to fully engage their heart, mind, and hands in the sacred process of learning. Calling for justice when the sacred qualities of humanness are threatened by systems of power and oppression.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Sue Varma, who studies the impact of trauma and loneliness on mental health offers a practical framework for finding the sacred, the things that bring me alive, in the midst of being scared. She calls her structured response to isolation and suffering the four-M’s.  They include: mindfulness, mastery (not perfection) of anything creative, movement of any degree, and meaningful connection—particularly helping others. In this time of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter I can practice the four-M’s while following the guidelines of sheltering in place. Which M has the greatest appeal for you right now? Which M can help move your feelings of being scared to the possibility of seeing the sacred—worthy of reverence and respect—in your day? I’m particularly drawn to creative activities and movement. I’m sketching more images of nature and riding my bicycle to build resilience to the traumatic impacts of coronavirus. I’m questioning the ways my points of power and privilege are unconsciously supporting whiteness and the oppression of others, limiting their sacred potential.

What are the activities in your life that bring you alive right now? Maybe it is spending time with a child, watching them grow and change by the minute. Maybe it is the soft breathing of a pet resting by your chair or on your lap as you write. Maybe it is the opportunity to just rest, to slow down, to live into the fecund dormancy of social inaction. Maybe it is marching and calling for social justice. Perhaps what is worthy of your reverence and respect is the dismantling of power and privilege that favors the few over the diminishment of many. The poet David Whyte advises that: “sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn / anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.”  As an extrovert who relies heavily on action and social connection, I need “the sweet confinement of my aloneness” to know what is sacred, what is truly worthy of my reverence and respect. I trust that by living this moment, even in its darkness, as sacred time I will emerge into the light with a clearer sense of how education and the ways I structure learning can become sacred time to all my students.

Dear Morgridge College of Education Students, Faculty and Staff,

The Morgridge College of Education stands against hate and racism. As a community of individuals committed to social justice we are dedicated to going beyond words to take action. Over the past few weeks, leaders across the College have worked collaboratively to continue existing efforts and to initiate new efforts to affect change within the College, the academy and the broader community. The following action items represent the overall areas of focus for the College. These have been identified as tangible, actionable steps toward building awareness of and dismantling systemic and institutional forms of racism. We will be working together throughout the summer to create more granular programming and action steps under each.

  1. We will continue to review and amend our recruitment processes to increase the diversity of our faculty, student and staff representation at MCE.
  2. We will continue college-wide training on issues related to systemic racism, institutional racism, and intersystems approaches to address these enduring forms of racism and discrimination that have marked the history of education in the U.S.
  3. We will collectively engage in Summer reading of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, to be followed by programming and small group discussions throughout the upcoming academic year. We will be providing more information soon on how students can acquire a copy of the book from the College.
  4. We will provide additional support and training for faculty to re-examine their courses to ensure integration of inclusive and critical approaches to subject matter content and its application.
  5. We will work with COESA to develop student-based programming that addresses training and education on systemic and institutional forms of racism.
  6. We will continue leadership training for Chairs, Directors, and Deans on dismantling systems and policies that reproduce inequities in the College.

The list above is not exhaustive. We will add and update these action steps as we continue this important work. Further, we want to hear from you (e.g., what could we do differently, what more could we be doing, what shouldn’t we be doing, what needs to happen first before other actions). Consider sharing your thoughts using this anonymous survey by Friday, June 19.

Thank you,

Dean Karen Riley

Associate Dean Mark Engberg

Members of the Inclusive Excellence Committee

Members of the MCE Leadership Team

President and Vice President of the MCE COESA

Cecilia Orphan, PhD, assistant professor in the Morgridge College of Education’s Higher Education Department, is co-leading a Joyce Foundation grant-funded study totaling $101,000 with the newly-launched Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges to identify how rural public higher education institutions are being impacted in real-time by COVID-19 budget shocks due to state funding cuts and rising costs associated with virus mitigation.

“Many rural public higher education institutions were vulnerable before COVID-19 due to enrollment declines and chronic underfunding from their states,” said Orphan. “These institutions are vital to their regions, because they serve students who would be unlikely to leave their regions to pursue education and educating public health workers and teachers to fill shortages in rural communities.”

The study will showcase the contributions of rural public higher education institutions, focusing on access, attainment, equity, public health, and regional wellbeing, and then shift to explore how such contributions are at risk due to COVID-19. By studying rural postsecondary institutions in real-time, the findings will inform policy recommendations for federal and state policymakers so that they can ensure these institutions survive and continue to fulfill their vital missions in rural regions. At the close of the project, the research team will also create an interactive website with data about rural public colleges that will be available to policymakers and the public.

To conduct the study, Orphan will work with collaborators Kevin McClure, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Watson College of Education, Andrew Koricich, associate professor at Appalachian State University and Alisa Hicklin Fryar, associate professor at The University of Oklahoma.

The study is currently underway. Findings will be described in a policy brief and website set to be released in November, 2020. For more information, visit the Open Campus Weekly Dispatch.

June 17, 2020 — “Normal” is a word I hear often these days. It carries with it the allure, of well, normal. I sense that it is often used with good intention. A longing for stability and certainty about the world and our place in it. And as a leader and teacher I think there is a good reason to express a certain degree of skepticism about its meaning. Especially in the current context of a global pandemic, world-wide economic decline, and the calls for justice by Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples. A return to “normal” feels to me inadequate for the deep work that I need to do and that the institutions that I’m part of and love also need to do. In my head I hear the lyrics to a Bruce Cockburn song: “the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” And by worse he means the divide between the haves and have nots, the rich and poor, and the empowered and disempowered. His song from 1983 is a prophetic warning to question normal as an operating principle, then and now.

This moment, now, compels me as educator and leader to address the realities of structural racism in every institution, especially schools, that support and perpetuate the pandemic of whiteness as normal. I don’t know how you are doing with this moment. Perhaps you carry sadness with you or fear. Rapid change and loss may well have brought weariness, bone weariness and a sense that you don’t know how to keep moving forward. Or even what forward looks like right now. You may be welcoming the change that is sweeping the world and the possibility found in chaos. You might sense that disruption is clearing away old habits and offering new ways to grow and heal. Regardless, I invite you to be fully present to your emotions. To feel them in your body. To know that they are real and contain the energy of transformation for self, others, and the field of education.

The questions I’m holding today are many and varied. Where should I look for wisdom, sense making, or something tangible to anchor to in hard times? What can I do when it feels like everything around me is in turmoil? Faculty, staff, students, and administrators are preparing for the fall quarter. I wonder how anyone can really plan amidst all the changes we are going through individually and collectively? I wonder how can we pick up the shattered pieces of social structures that empower some and disempower others—without recreating systems of oppression? I feel simultaneously charged and disoriented. I don’t really know what the best course of action is. I find myself searching for the generative space between deconstruction of power and privilege; and the construction of newness grounded in liberation and freedom for all. What can I do, is a daily question for me?

Two sources of wisdom have helped center me lately while keeping me open to personal and social change. The first dates to 1948 and the eve of the atomic revolution and potential world destruction. Four elders were appointed by the Hopi Nation to share ancient wisdom and prophecy. One story tells that now, a world in crisis, is like a mighty river. The eleventh-hour is here and so is the time to act.

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.  And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.

I hear in the prophecy of the Hopi elder that fear plays an important role in the way I and others choose to respond to this moment. The pain and loss associated with climate change, COVID-19, economic collapse, and the death of so many Black, Brown, and indigenous people feels like a mighty river. It is sweeping normal away and flushing out the no longer useful ways of being.

What can I do? I can let go and join the river as it flows to its destination, not my hoped for normal, but the river’s natural end point. What is of most use to me is the truth that once I let go and stop hanging on to my white-male-heterosexual privilege, for instance, I will find myself in the company of many others. In community we can celebrate and rejoice together as power is reconfigured in service of everyone, and every learner. Now is the time for me to give up privilege in order to give it back to all.

The second wisdom story comes from a June 5, 2020 National Public Radio StoryCorp conversation between a Black father (Albert Sykes) and his 9 year old son (Aiden).

Aiden: So, Dad, what are your dreams for me?

Mr. Sykes: My dream is for you to live out your dreams. There’s an old proverb that talks about when children are born, children come out with their fists closed because that’s where they keep all their gifts. And as you grow, your hands learn to unfold because you’re learning to release your gifts to the world. And so for the rest of your life, I want to see you live with your hands unfolding.

I like thinking in metaphors. They help me get beyond my rational mind to the living heart of truth. Albert Sykes offers me an understanding of change that combines the destructive and constructive image of a fist. What can I do? Now is a time, as many social justice educators argue, to raise a fist and break apart the power structures that oppress and kill (emotionally, socially, spiritually, and physically) so many. At some point, the closed fist will open, in its own time, to reveal gifts. New ways of knowing and being that the wounded world and broken schools need for healing.

Neither wisdom story offers a systematic and structured plan for change. They can’t be condensed into an email of next steps and phases or written as a five-year strategic plan. I find the wisdom that speaks to my heart takes its own time to settle in and create the conditions for growth and change. I need to sit with this wisdom and let it work me, rather than me applying my expectations and timeline to it.

Now is the eleventh-hour, a time to act. For some that means jumping into the river and swimming with fellow radical educators and protestors. For some that means sewing masks, painting slogans of empowerment, or pursuing other ways to disrupt and deconstruct the system. For others it means writing scholarly articles or leading professional development grounded in social justice practices and principles.

What can I do? I can look for companions with closed fists waiting for them to open and reveal gifts of insight, change, and the way forward to a more humane, compassionate, and just world. What can you do? What is in your fist today? What gifts do you carry? What is your unique wisdom to share with all of us?

This year, we held the MCE Day of Celebration to celebrate our graduating students on Thursday, June 11 at 3 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time). While we couldn’t celebrate in person this year, we have recorded a very special video to honor our students. Watch the video on our MCE Day of Celebration page.
This year’s MCE Student Awards Ceremony took place virtually on Friday, June 5 at 4 p.m. While we coudn’t celebrate in person this year, we recorded a very special online ceremony to honor our student awardees. Watch the video on our 2020 Student Awards Ceremony page.

May 29, 2020 — “Shelter in Place.” “Social distancing.” How do these words make you feel? I experience varying amounts of uncertainty, loss of autonomy, the urge to protect, and curiosity about what is coming. Three words I’ve heard before in the context of threatened violence or severe weather over the plains of Colorado. But in this era of coronavirus they carry a heavy load. Three words with a brooding sense of warning; take cover, watch out, something destructive is coming. The safest place, until the danger passes, is where you are right now. Stay put. Don’t move.

The poet Mary Oliver in her poem “Today” offers this advice for navigating troubled times: “the world goes on as it must.” Yikes that sounds like harsh advice from a poet known for her caring tone. She seems to be saying, what did you expect? Life is challenging. Get over your difficulties. Move on. It is also possible to read her tone as a frank assessment that the world is value neutral when it comes to human concerns like-shelter in place. “The world goes on as it must”. It has no choice. It can’t slowdown or stop to attend to my wants and needs. Or perhaps her tone is soothing reassurance that despite the trials and tribulations, the natural pace and purpose of life persists. I just have to trust in the wisdom of the world. What then might be the wisdom in “shelter in place” and “social distancing”?

A student who knows my love of poetry and stories sent me a Facebook post by Cheyanne Thomas that offers a way for me to trust the bigger forces that keep the world alive.

“I have been feeling very caged in with isolation and social distancing, and my partner Joseph gave me a bear teaching: When a bear goes into hibernation, they do it for the health of their community and themselves. In the winter, food is scarce, hibernating allows other animals to have access to the limited resources. It slows the spread of disease and viruses among other animals during a season when immune systems are lowered, and energy is limited.”

It is also a time of conserving health for the bear, a time for reflection… it is a time that allows you to renew, to undergo change, to honor your place in life and food cycles.

It is not a time for anxiety or fear. When it is time for hibernation, a bear can finally relax. All of the stress of finding food, territory, and a mate disappears. The bear believes that they have done enough and trust in themselves. They know this process is necessary and they will come out the other side renewed.

Be the bear. Stay home. Rest. Know you are doing this for something much bigger than yourself.”

In the opening stanza of “Today”, Mary Oliver writes: “Today I’m flying low and I’m / not saying a word / I’m letting the voodoos of ambition sleep.” There are many things about this opening line that resonate with Thomas’s bear story. She invites me, and I hope you as well, to realize that at times it is important to “fly-low” to rest, renew, and retool. I know many faculty, staff, and administrators who have a hard time saying “no”. It is easy, and I know this all too well myself, to say “yes” to the work. To always “fly-high” and take on more and more responsibilities and projects. I find myself, even though I’m working from home, doing more work than when I drove to campus every day. I ask, how can that be? I guess it is because my “voodoos of ambition” are still wide awake and unwilling to hibernate. I’m a helper by nature and there is lots that can be done to heal, help, and care for others these days. But if I fly too high with my sense of indispensableness I can lose track of the ground where the real work is done. Mary Oliver reminds me to fly low at times. To slow down enough to get up close and personal to the world. To be present to the people and needs right around me. I only need to give myself the gift of stillness.

I tend to rush opportunity. I’m a doer. I lean toward action in service of others. Cheyanne and the bear remind me to be patient, resist the urge to emerge too soon and push forward, back into old habits. I don’t have to feel like my work is essential to the smooth running of the world. And in this case, I’m thinking of the world as my teaching, service, and scholarship. My ego would like me to think that when I retire or if I suddenly quit, that some important aspect of the university will note my absence. That may be partially true but not fully true. The work of academia was here long before me and it will remain long after me. Yes, I have much to contribute and I know my work and presence makes a difference. But Mary Oliver and the bear remind me that ultimately what matters is not me individually but rather the way the collected whole, the world, moves along. We are all in this COVID-19 mess together. This is a good thing because the challenges are too great for any one person to resolve or even begin to approach with clarity. We are the world and we must go on.

Are there any ambitions you can set down for the moment in order to see your work as it should be, not as you are driven to achieve? What does it take to give yourself approval to fly low? To be the bear? What is the emotion you feel when you hear that the “the world goes on as it must”?

May 19, 2020 — When you are stressed, anxious, and struggling to make sense of your teaching or leadership, where do you turn for grounding? Centering? Anchoring? I have a tendency to do one of two things in my efforts at refocusing. One strategy is to go for a walk, mostly in nature where I often find a new way to see old problems. Perhaps it is seeing a plant pushing through the hard surface of blacktop pavement. Perhaps I find a rock that is rounded with age and the turbulent forces of nature. Now I have affirmation that with time and patience my troubles will push through to the light. Or perhaps they will be refined by life into a gentler and more accessible form. My other go to, when I’m looking for a connection to deep meaning is music. I don’t have a particular artist in mind. I just keep my heart open to lyrics that bring me to a new place of meaning and understanding. In this age of the coronavirus I find myself relying heavily on both meaning making strategies. Do you have strategies for navigating stress into clarity? Are these tactics still working in the era of COVID-19?

The weeks of sheltering in place have been tough for just about everyone. But they seem particularly tough on teachers and other members of the helping professions. They must shelter in place while attempting to construct learning experiences for their students who are also sheltering in place. This requires, it seems, an ability to set aside personal wants, worries, and needs in favor of serving the wants, worries, and needs of another person. Teachers are creative when it comes to imaginative responses to difficult instructional settings. I have heard stories of teachers recording messages, creating YouTube videos, organizing drive by instruction, and generally doing what is needed to engage students in learning. But it often feels like teachers are in a holding pattern, waiting for a return to “normal”. How much longer can everyone hold out? What is the goal toward which everyone is working?

We keep hearing that the measure of success in combating COVID-19 is flattening the curve. All our sacrifices and losses will be worth it when the number of infections drops, and we no longer need to be so careful and intentional about social distancing. This makes perfect sense when considering fact. The science of controlling a pandemic that spreads through physical proximity is clear. But that is not how I feel. My emotions and embodied response to the coronavirus doesn’t feel like it tracks along a predictable line. It can’t be plotted on a graph across time. I wonder how teachers are feeling these days as they attend to the needs of students while finding time for their own selfcare. How about you? How are you feeling right now? Does the logic of flattening the curve bring you solace and fuel your commitment to remain isolated from students, friends, family, colleagues? I’m finding it harder and harder to believe in the calculation of a flattened curve. I have no doubt that it will work, but right now my feelings and emotions are what I need to convince, not my mind.

I need a new metaphor that offers meaning to my feelings. One that is dynamic enough to honor my emotions, which are anything but flat. One day I’m up. One day I’m down. I’m looking for understandings that place fact and feeling in productive relationship, not opposites to each other. The image of waves moving across the surface of the water is an inviting metaphor for me. Sometimes the waves, like my feelings, can be nearly still and other times they can crest at incredible heights of unease or joy depending on the context. The poet Judy Brown offers a helpful fact about waves. They are as much their trough (low spot) as they are their crest (high spot):

“There is a trough in waves, / A low spot / Where horizon disappears / And only sky / And water / Are our company.”

I know this loneliness of the trough. My emotional bottom. I’m tired, frustrated, and just want to go to the store and buy peanut butter, cereal, or onions without having to cover my face in a mask or work to stand six feet from another human being. My mind knows why this is important, but right now it is not my mind but my emotions that need convincing.

I’ve noticed a curious thing about my emotions and feelings. They don’t typically respond to logic. They operate on a different circuit. You might say they have a mind of their own, a different kind of logic that is wired for a different kind of understanding. Judy Brown seems to sense this as well. She knows that negative emotions, like troughs, also rise and lift. The key is time and perspective:

“But if we rest there / In the trough, / Are silent, / Noticing the shape of things, / Then time alone / Will bring us to another / Place / Where we can see / Horizon.”

I don’t need to change my feelings. I only need to be present to them, to notice how they shape my response to COVID-19. And with patience I know that the curve of my feelings won’t flatten but rather rise, caring me to a new place and new emotions. Eventually the wave will lift, and I will see new possibilities. New ways of being. It is true that sometime the emotional wave of the corona virus will lift me to a new way of seeing and understanding. But for now, I’m in a trough. What about you? Where are you on your emotional wave? What are you noticing and paying attention to? What new perspective feels like it is waiting you?

The University of Denver (DU) is launching a new University-wide You Rock! Award. The You Rock! program honors faculty and staff for their accomplishments large and small, and is based on a similar initiative from the Morgridge College of Education. Members of the DU community can nominate a colleague for their good work, and recipients will receive a certificate with the details of the submission and be celebrated in monthly University communications.

With the cooperation of the Morgridge College of Education, Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs, Kate Willink borrowed an idea born of the unit’s Inclusive Excellence Committee. You Rock! started as a popular recognition program out of the dean’s office and has grown over the years into an important part of the college’s culture. Morgridge faculty and staff keep a stack of You Rock! slips close at hand. When they see something worthy of appreciation, they write up a You Rock! form, including the person to receive the recognition, a little bit about what they did and which of the college’s values best fit the deed. These forms end up in a jar in the dean’s office. Every other week, a name is drawn to win a prize and all the forms are distributed to the recipients. Dean Karen Riley notes that many people save their You Rock! forms, proudly displaying them pinned to bulletin boards and taped to the walls of their offices.

At Morgridge, we are committed to Inclusive Excellence. Hear more from our faculty about how they integrate Inclusive Excellence into their individual classrooms in the video below.

Special thanks goes out to HED student, Nathan Willers, for compiling these faculty videos!


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