Teaching with kindness and care
By Jon Parsons. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.
What does it mean to teach with kindness and care?
That’s the central theme of the 14th annual University of Waterloo Teaching and Learning Conference, taking place May 3-4.
Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) organizes the annual conference, which features sessions and speakers from UWaterloo and other post-secondary institutions.
The conference theme on kindness and care is noteworthy in the present-day context, given the disruption caused by the pandemic to the university experience for so many students and the rapidly changing expectation of what higher education should be.
There are significant challenges for students, and for instructors as well, with respect to stress, burnout and mental health. The conference sets out to explore approaches to teaching and learning that can create more compassionate and inclusive educational experiences, with mutual trust and respect between instructors and students at the foundation of this work.
Indigenous pedagogies keynote
The conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. Barbara Moktthewenkwe Wall, applies an Indigenous pedagogy that embeds kindness and care.
Wall is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Shawnee. She is an assistant professor of Indigenous environmental studies and sciences at Trent University’s Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies.
“Part of creating kindness and care in the classroom, as I understand it, goes against the standard hierarchy of the academy,” Wall says. “Typically, it’s the instructor who is the expert and the only one that’s going to be sharing knowledge. Teaching with kindness and care is about acknowledging that we’re all learners, and that we all bring knowledge to the classroom.”
Rather than teaching and learning being about students as passive recipients and the professor as a fount of knowledge, Indigenous pedagogies are more about students being actively involved in the co-creation of knowledge. It is an approach that sets out to flatten hierarchies and empower students as agents in their own educational experience.
But Wall’s approach carries a broader systemic critique as well, in the sense that it is also about the types of knowledge that are valued in the university.
“We’re becoming a global society and our institutions need to incorporate ways of knowing beyond just European or Western systems,” Wall continues. “Many of our students carry those non-dominant cultural markers, perspectives and knowledge systems. And that’s why I think it’s so important that part of teaching with kindness and care is a recognition and inclusion of that plurality of knowledge systems.”
Bringing it into the classroom
Asked what instructors can do to begin incorporating Indigenous pedagogies into their own teaching practice, Wall says a great place to start is to connect with the Indigenous educational developers working in the University’s Centre for Teaching Excellence.
“But then what do you do next? As a non-Indigenous educator, how do you start to feel comfortable incorporating practices that might not be familiar to you? I think the use of narrative and storytelling can be a comfortable way to approach things,” she continues. “Rather than having a formal lecture, maybe you start by telling your own story, your own journey, interwoven with the information and the specific knowledge that you’re going to share.”
Another aspect that Wall sees as central to an Indigenous-informed pedagogy is experiential learning, which she says makes the educational experience more real for students.
Wall also suggests any instructors interested in Indigenous pedagogies need to create choice for students. But along with choice, “it’s also about setting clear boundaries and being transparent about expectations,” she says. “I try to be very upfront with students, not only about the purpose of any assignment, but by having clear rubrics. I think that’s not only kind to the students, but also to myself as an instructor.”
“Indigenous pedagogy as I see it is all about having the educational experience be relational and built on relationships, and I think that same relational aspect is at the heart of teaching with kindness and care.”
Learn more about the sessions and speakers on the website for this year’s Teaching and Learning Conference.
Waterloo recognized with Spirit of Community award
By Namish Modi.
On Thursday, April 20, the United Way Waterloo Region communities (United Way WRC) recognized the University of Waterloo for its outstanding contributions in helping develop a better community.
The University received the 2022 Spirit of Community Award in recognition of its robust fundraising campaign and programs like Co-op for Community. Co-op for Community is a unique partnership between United Way WRC and the University. The donor-funded program creates meaningful co-op jobs for students from all disciplines. The students work at local non-profits, affiliated with United Way, who need talent. Several of the non-profits are grassroots organizations.
Donations made to Co-op for Community go directly to supporting Waterloo co-op students’ salaries. Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) leaders Judene Pretti, director of Business Services, and Kate Dal Castel, senior development officer, accepted the award on behalf of the University at the awards ceremony in Cambridge.
“There has never been a more important time for our community to tap into innovative talent and for our students to learn more about the community where they study and not-for-profits,” says Pretti.
“This award reflects the partnership between the University of Waterloo and United Way. Through philanthropy and programs like Co-op for Community, you see how Waterloo staff, faculty and students care deeply about the community and how United Way and its partner organizations can benefit from student talent.”
"Contributing to the community through our co-op program is very important to us here at CEE," says Judene Pretti, Director of CEE Business Services. "We appreciate being recognized by the United Way and know our partnership remains extremely beneficial to our students and to the community as a whole."
The Spirit of Community Award honours an individual, group, organization or agency that personifies exceptional community spirit, team spirit and generosity through their partnership with United Way WRC. The presenter and sponsor of the award is Paul Morris, Senior Investment and Wealth Advisor, Morris Wealth Management, RBC Dominion Securities.
Since the year 2000, Waterloo's fundraising campaign has contributed $4.5 million to the United Way. The University’s United Way Committee of volunteers recruits ambassadors and organizes several awareness events like “Go Red Day” and “Souper Tuesday soup day.”
“On behalf of all of us at United Way and all those we serve, we especially want to acknowledge the University of Waterloo’s partnership through the co-op for community program, the core committee and the ambassadors. They work tirelessly to organize a successful employee giving campaign, retiree campaign and raising awareness through events and messaging,” says Anjie Dietrich, manager of individual and major giving relationships at United Way WRC.
Dietrich recognized Waterloo’s support, caring and determination that helps the Region’s most vulnerable during unprecedented times.
New benefit rates went into effect May 1
A message from Human Resources.
On May 1 of each year, the University’s extended health, dental, life insurance (Life) and long-term disability (LTD) benefits are typically subject to a contract renewal. Where applicable, new rates are applied, and employee deductions processed.
Participation in the University’s benefits program is mandatory for all eligible employees. Please refer to the employee Benefits section of the Human Resources website for more information.
How are new rates calculated?
The rates for extended health and dental benefits are set for budget purposes as well as cost sharing that applies to part-time employees based on our expected claims and GreenShield's charges for administration. With GreenShield, the charges for administration are less than they were with Canada Life and are guaranteed for a set period of time.
The Life and LTD benefits are insured, and premium rates are set each year with Sun Life Financial. Based on our past claims experience and the financial status of the plan, Sun Life Financial requires an increase in our premium rates for the Life insurance benefit effective May 1, 2023. Due to the implementation of LTD with Sun Life Financial on May 1, 2022, our current premium rates are guaranteed for a defined period, and as such, there are no changes effective May 1, 2023.
What will the new benefits rates be?
The table below reflects the rates effective May 1, 2023.
Change from Last Year
Increase of 0.9 per cent
100 per cent University-paid (shared if part-time)
Increase of 12.9 per cent
100 per cent University-paid (shared if part-time)
$0.139 per $1,000 of coverage (excludes tax)
Increase of 10 per cent
1 x earnings is paid by the university, 2 and 3 x earnings is 66.7 per cent paid by the University
Long-term disability (LTD)
1.015 per cent of earnings
100 per cent employee-paid
Some notes: the year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) for 2023 is $66,600. The maximum insured salary effective May 1, 2023, is $192,454 (an increase of 1 per cent from last year’s maximum of $190,549).
Optional Life insurance (employee coverage above 3 x earnings and spousal coverage) rates remain unchanged for the upcoming year.
Employee pension contribution rates were increased over a three-year period commencing May 1, 2020. There are no changes required effective May 1, 2023; however, these rates do change through time.
Star Wars Day and other notes
Today is a special day for Star Wars
geeks nerds fans the world galaxy over, who will be heard saying "May the 4th be with you" to one another, quoting a variant of the space opera franchise's famous catchphrase, "may the Force be with you." Funny, right? While people have been making this pun as far back as 1979, it wasn't until 2011 that semi-official "Star Wars Day" fan celebrations started taking place (in Toronto, of all places!) with special film screenings, cosplay, and other activities, and once Disney completed its purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, they picked it up and ran with it. Meanwhile, other fans will celebrate "Orthodox Star Wars Day" on May 25, traditionally marking the original release date of the first Star Wars film on May 25, 1977. It's a whole thing. And, of course, watch out for "Revenge of the Fifth" on Friday, May 5.
Meanwhile, on a campus not so far, far away:
The 14th annual University of Waterloo Teaching and Learning Conference is set to take place today in the Science Teaching Complex and Federation Hall. The 2023 conference theme is Teaching and Learning with Kindness and Care.
Barbara Moktthewenkwe Wall, Professor in the Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences Program, and Director, PhD Studies, in the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies, at Trent University, is the keynote speaker, and Sanjeev Bedi (Professor and Director, IDEAs Clinic) and Tamara Maciel (Program Director in the School of Anatomy), will each recreate a successful instructional approach in the Igniting Our Practice plenary session, which showcases some of the excellent teaching being done on the Waterloo campus.
The Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE) is hosting an ammonia workshop comprising speakers from academia both nationally and globally on Tuesday, May 9.
The workshop brings together an academic forum intended to encourage the exchange of ideas that will help create a roadmap to guide the future of ammonia and its applications in Canada. The workshop's focus is to facilitate collaboration in ammonia research, the exploration of opportunities for partnership, and the integration of efforts across stakeholder groups.
The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and takes place in EIT 3142.