Wellness Champions: Teaching Team for REC 373 Work to Provide Respite for Students

Friday, July 30, 2021

Through the pandemic, online learning, and the saddening events occurring globally, a focus on respect, mental health, and well-being are necessary for Lisbeth Berbary and Akua Kwarko-Fosu wearing masks in a selfie together.all. For the teaching team of Dr. Lisbeth Berbary, Michela Pirruccio, Akua Kwarko-Fosu, Melanie Sean Lim, and Alex Silver of the Recreation and Leisure Studies Department teaching REC 373 – Qualitative Approaches to Leisure Research, these aspects were critical to the creation and usefulness of the course. The teaching team did whatever they could to support students’ well-being by ensuring students were supported for their full humanity and recognizing that their marks never reflect their worth.

Leading up to the course, the teaching team was conscious of how humanity was exhausted at that point, causing the REC 373 team to re-evaluate their teaching methods. For instance, in many cases, students are typically overwhelmed with an unexpected course load each week. To do teaching differently for REC 373, all of the course content, including assignments, expectations, and weekly workloads, were all accessible from the start of classes so that students could plan ahead, be flexible, and schedule their course work in ways that best supported their personal lives. Students were also able to choose from multiple options to do their assignments. For instance, students could pick from a list of questions and answer them in the form of bullet points, drawings, paragraphs, and other creative representations. This method allowed students to express their identities and discover different ways to speak out that felt comfortable for them. Despite the lack of post-secondary assignments that allow for incorporating art and other formats, the Recreation and Leisure Studies Department values and encourages teaching innovatively and showing different ways of knowing, which provides a loving and diverse space for all.

During the discussion of student wellness, the teaching team was adamant that they would do whatever they could to make students’ lives more manageable. For example, Melanie Sean Lim, one of the REC 373 TAs, stated, “the team of TAs I worked with during REC 373 tried our best to always put health first by supporting students in whatever way they needed – we found that the outcome was some really beautiful work from the students of the class.” This devotion to caring for the students’ well-being was vital in creating an ethical and loving online environment. For instance, the team understood their power to make the course as stress-free as possible during difficult times. As a result, they were open to being flexible with assignment deadlines, allowed multiple turn-in dates for final submissions, and provided feedback before submission.  The team also supported creating a study group for the REC 373 students to foster connections between their peers and discuss course content. Lastly, it was also crucial for the team to act as a bridge for students to access resources within the school or the student’s community around health and well-being. For example, if the team noticed a student’s mark dropping or missing assignments, they would reach out and offer connections to wellness resources, if needed. Ultimately, the teaching team’s ongoing hard work to support and educate students has provided some respite, some calm, and some relief that will leave a lasting impact on the students.

If you are interested in taking a class with Lisbeth Berbary in the future, she will be teaching REC 201 and Rec 663 in the Fall 2021 term.