By Shannon Zander
Kathleen Greene, visiting faculty member in the Education Department, discovered a unique perk to distance learning: she was able to host “Bring Your Family to Class Day.” Most of her students were able to coax at least one family member into joining the Zoom call for the special topics class, Immigration Stories in Education.
Kyle Zinkula’s ’22 younger brother, a senior in high school, was able to attend and view a Colorado College class for himself. Colleen Campbell ’23 was able to bring her two sisters, mother, father, and even her dog, an experience she noted was “delightful, albeit a little bizarre.” The oddity of the moment was due to the fact that, according to Campbell, “it definitely felt like a worlds colliding kind of moment where people I never thought would all be in the same room (kind of) were all together and able to talk,” and it “had a sort of alternate universe feel.” Pardes Lyons-Warren ’22 was unable to bring anyone because her parents were working. But she found a humorous way to feel included in the Zoom photo by holding up a photo of her sister.
This unusual perk, however, does not override the challenges that arose in adapting the course to distance learning. Much of the course that Greene initially designed was involved with local organizations in the Colorado Springs community. Initially, Greene planned to have the students work with Brittney Carroll Hatcher at Lutheran Family Services and to volunteer with Chris Hawkinson’s “newcomers” class in the ESL program at Palmer High School.
Although COVID-19 interfered with certain portions, Greene was able to make the best of the situation and redesigned the course to involve students in their own local communities. Zinkula mentioned that the class was tasked “to research our local area for immigrant resources as well as our local libraries for books that can be useful and informative for immigrants. I was not aware of what resources my home state, Iowa, had. There are far more immigrant resources available for family development, English learning, and legal help” than he initially thought. Lyons-Warren remarked that she “was pleased by how many resources there were, though, and especially by the programs targeted at specific languages or nationalities because that can be good for community building.” Because of distance learning, students were able to relate the course to their hometowns in a way that would not have otherwise occurred.
Additionally, the class was able to adapt some of the planned engagement with Lutheran Family Services and the ESL program at Palmer to an online medium. Representatives from both groups attended Zoom classes as guest speakers. The list of guests also included Eric Pavri, a Colorado Springs immigration lawyer. Zinkula mentioned that he was a particularly moving speaker because he “was open enough to delve into the emotional side of being a person in his position… He does very hard, challenging, draining, and necessary work. Knowing that people like him are fighting for immigrant families gives me hope that the immigration issues in the United States can improve.”
Adapting to distance learning has been challenging, but Greene commended the way the students have met the challenge, especially with synchronous three-hour classes, and morphed into such a dedicated community of learners. Students have stepped into leadership roles such as a two-person “continuity committee,” tasked with finding a Zoom alternative should there be technological issues, and a two-person “communication committee,” tasked with keeping the class apprised of necessary updates. All students have risen to the challenge of selecting images and news articles on education to share, volunteering to review the daily video, and volunteering to act as scribe for the questions that the class develops to send to class guests.
Greene addressed the family members at Bring Your Family To Class Day to thank them for sharing the students with her for this block, and “applauded the impressive resiliency, agency, and flexibility of their students.” Greene has glowing praise for how her students have adapted: “I am beside myself with gratitude for this group of students.