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September Sessions Preview: 2022

Balloons, by Ankush Minda,

When the Septembrists first convened in June to start developing this year’s September Sessions, Spring quarter was very much on our mind.  From the notes you sent us through surveys, to the passing comments in the hall, or longer conversations outside classrooms, in the Sweet kitchen, and in all our planned and serendipitous intersections, we all heard different variations on the same messaging:

Spring. Was. Hard.

It was hard for students; it was hard for instructors; it was hard for families.  I think I speak for most of us that we ended at a place of exhaustion. Our classroom learning communities had struggled, and we struggled right alongside them.

So when we (the Septembrists) started thinking about how to design a set of Sessions that would be meaningful, attentive to the moment, but also true to the mission of the program, we quickly identified two key terms: Community and Pedagogy.  We hope that you’ll see this emphasis reflected in this year’s September Sessions, with its theme of Rebuilding Community; Refocusing on Core Pedagogy.

We selected two core readings that were particularly reflective of the spring, providing both the instructors' and student's perspective on the stressors we experienced last year.  We aimed to complement that focus in providing a set of Choose Your Own Adventure readings that invited us to consider how we might rebuild our communities and return to and recharge our pedagogical approach for the new academic year.

 As always, we’ve been so grateful for the number of our colleagues who have come forward to help facilitate different moments over our three days together. You'll find your colleagues to be the driving, inspiration force behind all our menu-driven concurrent sessions:

  • Wednesday morning's Rebuilding Classroom Community conversations that invite you talk with your colleagues about key questions related to the classroom issues that we are facing in this pandemic era and share ideas, strategies, and practices to help us create robust, inclusive classroom communities
  • Thursday afternoon's Core Pedagogy sessions on topics like teaching the TiC, using OCTs and Peer Writing Tutors in the classroom, and integrating effective reflection into your classes.
  • Friday sessions on other aspects of our work in PWR -- from a deeper dive into aspects of the Program you may not know as much about (working with ESF, the Companion Courses, the Notations) to talking about questions related to keeping those creative and scholarly projects going as a complement to our teacher identities. 

As in past years, we're also devoting a session specifically to a key issue in PWR 1 and PWR 2. This year's focus is on Peer Review, both because student evaluations tell us that we still have work to do with our students to help them understand the value of peer feedback, but also because peer review is an ideal spot for rebuilding community within our classrooms. You'll get to choose whether you join the PWR 1-focused or PWR 2-focused peer review discussion.

In designing the sessions, we’ve also tried to be attentive to the needs of our own community.  It was wonderful to see each other in passing last year – in Sweet Hall, the corridors of Wallenberg and Hume – though admittedly those serendipitous encounters felt more rare than they have in the past.  To start the year, we felt strongly (as many of you did) that it was important to have concentrated time to work together – to chat, talk, engage with each other’s ideas etc.  We’ll have the opportunity to relax and catch up over a cup of coffee before the sessions start, or at lunch, or at the casual after-sessions receptions for those who choose to stay. We’re also reintroducing lunchtime campus adventures (Thursday lunch), which were so popular at September Sessions years ago, so that we can reconnect with our favorite spots on campus while reconnecting to each other. 

Last year was hard.  I’ve said that.  I’m confident that this year will be better.  We’ve designed our September Sessions with that in mind – with an eye to pragmatism, but also toward hope.

 We look forward to seeing all of you next week, in person to reconnect and rebuild.  It's time, once again, to PWR on.


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