Of the many challenges of teaching during a pandemic, personal connections are one of the harder than ever to maintain with students. Sheldon Solow, an instructor of Ethics and Advocacy at the Chicago-Kent School of Law, felt this acutely. “I have found that the most difficult part of teaching online for both the students and the teacher is our inability to connect on a personal basis and the resulting sense of isolation,” Solow said. Accordingly, he sought out ways to establish a closer connection.
“I start by acknowledging the problem and referencing it regularly throughout the semester. I invite any student who feels the need for individual contact to let me know and then I follow up, usually by phone or zoom. Additionally, I tend to arrive for class at least 15 minutes early to talk to students and I stay afterward to discuss anything raised by students, regardless of whether the matters raised have anything to do with class.”
Throughout the semester, students regularly joined him before class and took him up on the option to chat individually. He was able to help students connect with himself and other classmates, provide advice about law school and life beyond law school. By taking just moments to remind students of his availability and openness to talk individually, Sheldon Solow was able to open the door to closer communication, and remove the sense of isolation that has been caused by the pandemic.