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    • #4758
      Laura Berlage

      holding felted crittersBecause being seen and heard is such an essential human need, spending time on introductions in your first session and student checkins throughout class and as you log into continuing sessions is also essential.  It’s not something you want to have take over your entire class, but it’s also not something to rush or undervalue.

      Because having more than one person speak at the same time gets all jumbled up on Zoom as the program tries to figure out who to preference, helping folks navigate this situation without it feeling too forced becomes an artform.  With intros, I’ll make sure to start (if the host hasn’t managed intros already on their own, as some will do), offering a little bit about who I am, where I’m tuning in from, and what I’m interested in hearing from them.  My favorites are:

      • Who you are
      • Where you are tuning in from
      • Brief description of prior experience in this medium (if any)
      • What you’re excited about for this class/What you’re looking forward to for this class

      This helps me assess the skill or knowledge level of my students right at the beginning, as well as find out what brought them here.  This can help me custom tailor the delivery of my class towards what is of special interest to this group of students.

      To help give this a sense of some order, I’ll also start with, “I’ll invite you into the intro circle as you appear on my screen, so Judy [or first tile in the upper left of gallery view], can I pass to you?”  Somehow, “pass to you” is less intimidating for folks than “can you go first.”

      When that student is finished, I always offer something that acknowledges an element of what they’ve said. “You’re in the right place for that!” or “How exciting that this is your first adventure with [your medium here]” or “We’ll be sure to cover that in this course” followed by a sincere expression of gratitude for their intro and for them being here today.

      Once you make it all the way around, launch into describing how this class works.

      After this point, I do NOT call on students one at a time in order for checkins.  Instead, I offer a “popcorn” model, inviting them to unmute and offer their updates or questions as they feel led.  Usually, this sorts itself out socially quite fast, and the anxious ones work out their bits first, while the shy ones build up the courage.  If you force each one on your terms for anything but an intro, some students will balk and this gets real awkward real fast.  Some students may not share during checkins.  Everyone has a whole life going on you don’t know about, so if they need space, allow them that space, while also making them feel welcome to jump in at any time.

      Allow checkins to feel celebratory, where you all make moments for the wins and accomplishments, the “aha” moments we all treasure, or the best attempts.  Be kind with critical feedback.  I’ve had plenty of teachers who had me take out work and do it again, but sometimes the best learning moments are realizing what you would do differently next time.  Do these checkins in gallery view, so you can “read” your class’ body language and social cues.  If someone is holding back but looks like they need help, ask if you can be helpful for them.  They may be ok, or they may be shy, but offering is kind.  Forcing is not kind.  The balance of where one turns into the next can be a social artform.  It gets better with practice and honest compassion.

      Practice these tips and tricks in your Zoom classroom.  What questions do you have?  What other strategies have you found useful?

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