You Can Bounce Back!

Today’s students are experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression at record levels, caused by everything from moving away from home (or country), to social expectations, to work pressures, to academic pressures. Without intervention, the weight of all this can be overwhelming leading to various mental health conditions that can negatively impact their academic performance.

On January 20, Rebecca Gagan, Founder and Director of the University of Victoria’s Bounce program, came to Douglas College to facilitate an interactive workshop to discuss her work and Douglas College’s opportunity to intervene at an early stage to help prevent crisis-level mental health issues. By changing the way we understand and talk to students about their struggles, we can create a community of support, helping students before they become overwhelmed by building positive coping skills that will change the course of their academic journey.

Rebecca Gagan, Founder and Director, UVic Bounce

The genesis of UVic Bounce

Rebecca’s work in this area started in 2015 after she received a scholarship in teaching and learning from UVic’s Learning and Teaching Support and Innovation (LTSI). She studied her first-year writing classes to understand how students could become more resilient through short in-class writing interventions. Her study in turn led to the creation of a website for the Faculty of Humanities for a video initiative called “UVic Bounce.”

Using videos in which alumni and faculty speak openly about their successes and failures during their university experiences, students will see that their own struggles and failures are an important part of their learning experience. By normalizing and de-stigmatizing the challenges that students face, UVic Bounce will make it easier for students to share their struggles and to seek the support that they need.

Cited from https://www.uvic.ca/humanities/student-resources/bounce/index.php

Some workshop A-ha! moments

Rebecca started the ball rolling by playing one of the videos in the Bounce project. A hush fell over the room as we watched and listened to the story playing out on screen. At times it was hard to watch, but by the end, my heart was full of optimism. Listening to the stories of senior professors and administrators talk about their own struggles while studying underlined that all of us (even truly successful people) can fail. On the flip side, those same people can rebound to success, when given the proper support and encouragement, which is exactly what happened with the video participants. You can bounce back.

Some rich discussion followed including having participants reflect on a time when they felt particularly troubled, alone, or anxious while at school. In other words, what did that feel like and how did they overcome that challenge.

Rebecca provided some concrete examples of ways staff, instructors, and administrators could be there for students by simply telling their own stories, thus becoming vulnerable, bridging the distance between them and their students.

But, enough from me. Here is the full workshop recording. Sit back, grab a cup of tea, and prepare to be amazed at our collective resiliency.

Our sincere thanks goes to the Douglas College-Wide Faculty Professional Development Committee and Academic Technology Services for funding this workshop.

Are you feeling emotionally safe?

Recently we held a workshop at Douglas College titled “Creating emotional safety in learning spaces,” which was facilitated by Leva Lee of BCcampus; Sandra Polushin, CFCS faculty; and Steven Bishop and Hope Miller from the Learning Designer team of Academic Technology Services.

And how did we land on this topic? Well, it started over a year ago when Ross Laird presented a two-day workshop titled “Storming the Ivory Tower.” As one plank of his 10-plank framework, emotional safety is a critical component of teaching the whole person.

Our goal in running this workshop was really to start a dialogue at Douglas College about what emotional safety means and how it impacts each of us in our various learning environments. None of the facilitators professed to being an expert in the field of emotional safety, but they were willing to guide the discussion around this important topic.

To that end, the facilitators used Liberating Structures activities to generate thoughts, ideas, challenges, and solutions, as well as to model how such topics could be tackled in learning environments. Two hours flew by as participants completed three activities–Impromptu Networking, Drawing Monsters, and 1-2-4-All–each activity building on the insights gleaned during group work.

I’m happy to report that feedback from participants was very positive. They liked the format and saw the benefits of using Liberating Structures to delve into topics such as emotional safety.

But, did we succeed in creating an emotionally safe space for participants to come together, share, tackle tough topics, and problem solve? Absolutely.

If, after reading this, you are interested in joining Douglas College’s Whole-Person Community of Practice, please contact either Steven Bishop or Hope Miller.  You can also consider joining the Vancouver Liberating Structures User Group.

Creating emotional safety in learning environments: Oct.23, 9-11AM, New West campus, room S0620

What it is

Have you ever been part of a group (in class, online, or in the workplace):

  • Where you didn’t feel comfortable or empowered to participate?
  • Where one group member was being culturally insensitive to another?
  • Where you felt bullied?

We can all relate to having experienced BAD group dynamics. Yet group work is critical to creating effective student engagement, even good work team relations. Learn about some dynamic strategies for promoting and enhancing positive group dynamics that enable everyone to participate!

By the end of this workshop you will be able to:

  • Reveal insights and paths through non-verbal expressions
  • Stop counterproductive activities and behaviours, making space for productive collaboration and innovations
  • Rapidly generate and sift through a group’s most powerful actionable ideas
  • Use Liberating Structures to pave the way for successful group interactions while creating an emotionally safe environment

How we’ll do it

Using Liberating Structures activities, Sandra Polushin, Leva Lee, Steven Bishop, and Hope Miller will facilitate ways to create emotionally safe group spaces to promote effective and successful group interactions.

We will model the importance of creating a trusting group climate in order to promote the work of the group. You, in turn, will be able to use these same techniques in your classroom, online course space, and team meetings.

How we got here

For some background on how we got here, please listen to this short audio clip, which all started with the “Storming the Ivory Tower” event with Ross Laird held last fall.

Who should come

Students, faculty, and staff are ALL welcome at this event, as well as interested parties from other institutions.

Format and details

 Join us for a two-hour workshop in our new Collaboration Room (S0620), New Westminster campus on October 23 from 9-11AM.

Click here for REGISTRATION information.

Photo by Morgan Basham on Unsplash