Alumni and Faculty Spotlight: “Infusing the Personable into Teaching”
“Don’t be afraid to be human! Everyone is trying to adapt and deal with the difficult times right now. Be honest and upfront with students. Get to know them individually – and have fun!”
These sage words are the apt advice from Jennifer (Jen) Braithwaite, Field Placement Facilitator in the Centre for Professional and Part-time Learning at Durham College, as we all rethink teaching and learning in a time of COVID 19.
Jen is an invaluable faculty member of Durham College, but her connection with the college runs deeper. She attended Durham College as a student in the early 2000’s and then completed a degree from Trent. When she saw the opportunity to be a part-time facilitator in the same program from which she graduated, she applied. She was thrilled to come back to the campus where she had spent many years as a student.
Jen’s own teaching practice emphasizes humanizing education; while remaining professional, she strives to incorporate humour and fun into her teaching. This approach, while also engaging students on an academic level, aids her in creating a safe, non-judgmental space for students so they feel comfortable coming to her with questions and concerns. A safe and caring environment is further developed through Jen’s methods of engaging students. She focuses on relationship building and establishing her online presence. She logs in daily to her course and responds to each post; she makes sure to acknowledge what students have shared and then provides further comments and questions to encourage further engagement. She provides positive feedback on assignments and tries to relate their thoughts and ideas back to real life experiences since her students are missing their in-person placement currently. Ultimately, Jen has embraced the joys and challenges of teaching and supporting her students’ journey of learning.
Remote delivery has added an additional layer of consideration to teaching and learning for all in the education sphere, but Jen has taken on this challenge with great poise. Through this experience, she has learned that although it is difficult for students to get the in-person experience they need due to the lack of on- site field placements, students are extremely positive and resilient and are willing to work hard to complete all course requirements, no matter the situation. Because her students cannot complete their on-site field placement, Jen has attempted to ensure that they have a forum to engage in discussion and collaboration so that they are learning from each other and connecting. And, Jen has gone one step further; the field placement course had to be adapted to run completely online. To achieve this, she created virtual placements using a variety of early childhood videos. She received a lot of positive feedback from students about the videos, and they expressed how grateful they were to still be given the opportunity to complete their placement.
Through her intentional and personable approach to teaching and learning, Jen Braithwaite has ensured that the DC experience for her students has been rewarding and valuable.