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Marianopolis continues to be Marianopolis despite the pandemic. Here is how some students, teachers and staff are making that happen.

Vanessa R. Sasson '92

Religious Studies professor

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I must admit that I was quite nervous about transitioning to teaching remotely. So much of my teaching depends upon human contact, reading the room, getting to know my students and taking my cues from them. I didn’t think I could teach remotely, create video clips of myself talking to a computer, limit myself to a tiny bubble alone in my office. I did not expect I could have any kind of meaningful experience as a teacher in this new reality I was suddenly catapulted into.

But then I offered my first virtual office hours and the students came pouring in. They wanted to see my face, to talk to me directly, and I was over the moon with gratitude. They needed the contact as much as I did. That first week seemed to be all about finding each other again. Seeing each other’s faces and taking a deep collective breath.

After that, things moved much more fluidly. I managed to make my video clips, but I also started holding regular classes at our regular class hour so that we could be together. And I found that almost all of my students show up all the time. It gives them structure (and it gives me that, too) and brings the human element back into the center. It is not the same as the real classroom – nothing will ever top that – but I think we are all discovering how manageable this can be. This is a crisis and we are learning to make do with what we have. Life could be so much worse.

Aaron Gao '20

Honours Commerce

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Personally, while the two weeks following the suspension of in-person instruction, where everyone was scrambling to figure out what to do, were a bit confusing, most of my teachers made the transition smooth and stress-free. Most of my quizzes were cancelled, but that meant that exams would count for more.

Thankfully, the education system as whole has been understanding of the different situations students could be facing. When it comes to finding the motivation to keep working hard, things have been more difficult, and it has made me realize how much being in class and engaging in discussion is a motivator for me.

I find that keeping a routine is very helpful and helps to keep my morale up. Everyone is finding things to help lower their stress during this time and, for me, that’s been working out and staying in contact with my friends.

Katherine Spandidakis '09

Recruitment and Admissions Associate

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In Recruitment and Admissions we are working as hard as ever, adapting and evolving our communication strategies. We are collaborating with our colleagues to come up with engaging activities for incoming students, such as Q&A sessions on Facebook. Disappointed as we are that we cannot hold orientation in person, we look forward to welcoming new students to the Marianopolis community through online sessions.

The team is also hard at work, evaluating applications and keeping our connection with students through email. We are in constant communication with each other, balancing our productivity with community: we keep a standing morning check-in where we discuss the day ahead and share in some silliness to start the day with a smile.

Throughout the day I move my workstation from the dining table to the living room sofa, and even to the kitchen counter. No matter where I am, I am glad to be able to continue doing the job that I love, working with my wonderful colleagues and amazing students.

Alex Van Sant '21

Music and Social Science

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It’s good to have the structure and routine of school and to know that my studies are on track. I’ve been impressed by how my teachers have made so many changes to help us finish this semester.

Miss Herron has completed adjusted our ear-training and theory course so that we can still practice and see new material. Usually we do the exercises together but now we do them alone, which requires a lot more attention but I’m really impressed with how much material we can cover.

My primary instrument lessons are taking place over Zoom, which was definitely awkward at first. But, once again, I got used to it and I can even tell that I am making as much progress now as I would be if I were in person with my voice teacher at McGill.

All my Social teachers are recording their lectures and posting them, which is as close to “real” class as we can get. It’s not passive teaching, they explain the material and are happy to answer questions. By no means are you expected to teach yourself. All my teachers are “present” and hands-on.

Jean-François Deslandes

Mathematics professor

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One thing is for sure: I have not worked this hard in years ... or ever. Every day flies by with crossed-off elements of my to-do list rapidly replaced by new ones.

A lot of knowledge is in my head so now it is worthless unless I manage to put it on paper. Better yet, on video.

I quickly learned to use software that I had never heard of before. Teams, Zoom, Crowdmark, Screencast-O-Matic, YouTube! My goodness, I've used YouTube to watch videos, but never to post any.

Because I do not have a nice blackboard and great Hollywood lighting at home, I have been using PowerPoint to prepare course material. I use Screencast-O-Matic to record the explanations over the slides. Every video is uploaded on YouTube. I am now getting messages from “My YouTube friend, Luke,” who is generously proposing ways to promote and commercialize my content. Uh...

Every Friday, starting March 27, I send students one document, the course plan/guide for the activities we’ll cover the following week. This document provides:

  • links to the videos they will need to watch. Each video is 6-12 minutes long and really focuses on the main concepts or strategies they’ll need
  • “fill-in-the-blank” notes they can complete as they watch the videos
  • problems that we will cover together at our upcoming Zoom sessions

The only other document I send them is their homework. I do that through Crowdmark, a web application that allows students to deposit their work and allows me to edit and grade it without actual files being exchanged.

With each group, I hold two 90-minute Zoom sessions at regular class times. We recap the videos, discuss questions students may have and work on the suggested problems together (I share my screen and students are prompted to suggest steps I should be taking to solve particular problems). Work we do is recorded and made available to those who could not make it. Our third official class time is office hours and students “drop in” to do their homework and to collaborate. The students' reaction to having at least some form of synchronous activities is of great comfort to them as it ensures a routine is established. They get to “see” me and they see their peers ... that stability is comforting to them. And it is a refreshing stability for me as well.

So far, our routine has been very productive and often ... fun.

The Math Department is hard at work, working together, each member contributing in any way they can to provide students with the best possible service and support (the Math Help Center, spearheaded by Professor Turner is a good example of that).

Michael Chalkhoun '20

Arts and Sciences

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How did I adjust? Well, aside from Netflix, I threw myself into my student union work as the acting Coordinator of Student Advocacy. My job is to respond to student concerns and protect their rights; evidently, the pandemic has increased this responsibility. Everyone has questions and the situation is uncertain. I and all of the Marianopolis Student Union Congress relayed information between the College and the students. We also shared College resources, collected student questions, created an emergency relief fund for students, and more. We help out students in any way we can. These days student life is happening online by holding movie nights, contests with prizes, and more. We do our best to keep morale high. I continue daily communication with students to answer their questions and concerns, through direct messaging and surveys.

I have also been adjusting. Marianopolis has adopted asynchronous learning. I have learning to do at home, as well as assignments, and teachers hold Zoom calls to clarify material and answer questions.

In my personal life, three of my basketball teammates and I have created a workout group where we keep active daily. It has really helped my mental and physical health. But it’s much more than just exercise for me. I feel very fortunate to have the ability to self-isolate, given that many people across the country and the world are struggling financially. I use the time constructively to work on myself and maintain a strong connection, through social media, with the people I am close to.

I find it really important to support others during the pandemic. Whether it be through the Marianopolis Student Union or with my friends and family, I have been doing my best to do so.

Stuart Kruger '84

Law and Business professor

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Since my courses are all very interactive, with a lot of storytelling, debate and back-and-forth with the students, I was worried that the courses would suffer because we cannot be together in the same room. However, much to my satisfaction, the students have remained really engaged. This is true for both my Law sections and my Business and Social Responsibility course, both popular offerings each year.

My weekly Zoom sessions and 1:1 office hour “Zooms” have been great, with a lot of good and thoughtful questions. While nothing can replace face-to-face interactions, it has all worked out super well and has exceeded my expectations.

The student reaction to my alternative methods of continuing the semester has been fantastic. I am seeing close to 100% engagement, with students really embracing the change and trying to get as much as they can out of the course content. I have been very impressed with how the students have taken on this challenge.

Elia Nissan '20

Pure and Applied Science

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The beginning of the quarantine was an adjustment for all of us. We went from going to school every day, hugging our friends and studying with our classmates, to being confined at home.

During the first two weeks of quarantine, I went running outside, played guitar and spent time with my family. It was difficult for the first couple of days, however, we all pulled through. When school began again on March 30, all our teachers made it clear that if there was an issue, they would be available to help us. Every teacher uses different methods to transmit lectures or to assign projects. For example, some teachers film their lectures and post them on YouTube, others send us notes or post weekly videos outlining our work for the week. All teachers have available office hours and reply quickly to their emails as well. It was a big adjustment for us all, however, at this point in the semester, everything is running smoothly, considering the circumstances!

Along with classes, student life is still active. Some clubs are having virtual speakers and we have large trivia games all together. Money that was allocated to clubs by Student Congress to host events has been donated to the Marianopolis COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which helps supports students. All in all, I feel that the Marianopolis community definitely came together to support each other during this difficult time. Not to say that there aren’t hiccups or place for improvements, but I believe our school is continuing to support us and ensure our well-being. The students and school alike are trying to continue to engage us and help us through this difficult time, which is essentially the most important thing to do.

Trudy St. Croix '92

Student Life Animator

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Marianopolis has always been a tight-knit community, made all the more special by a dynamic student life that can’t be matched. At Student Services we continue to keep our students engaged and supported. Our counselors are offering virtual sessions and posting videos and links to resources about self-care. Our clubs are hosting meetings, challenges, competitions, guest speakers and more. On Facebook, we post physical challenges to keep moving, fun competitions and healthy recipes, and we also do check-ins and live activities. Our student leaders, the Marianopolis Student Union, are as active as ever, updating and motivating their peers.

We still hold office hours, except now we connect with students virtually. Students chat or hang out with members of Students Services a few hours a day, each day of the week:  Wayne's World, our information and service counter run by the super-helpful Wayne; Josie, our amazing Student Services Administrative Technician, who as usual is answering a ton of questions; and what we’re calling the V.A.T. Cave, where students can hang out with the animators, Vero, Adam and me.

We may all be working from our homes, but our sense of community is strong!

We especially look forward to having our new incoming students be part of the Marianopolis community. We can't wait to welcome them and hear about and/or support the new initiatives and ideas they will be bringing to the College. Stay Safe, keep smiling, keep in touch with those you care about.

Michèle Saumier

Biology professor

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To tell you honestly, I am not very skilled at using technology but I’m making it work! I have virtual office hours on Microsoft Teams, which is a good way to connect with students and to help them with whatever questions they have. I have learned how to share my screen and use a whiteboard option.

Because I usually teach using colour markers on the classroom whiteboard, my son Charles is taping my voice and I deliver my lectures with his iPad using Notability. We post the capsules privately on YouTube and each capsule is accompanied by the PDF version of the notes.

I have the students review the material with multiple choice questions on a  PowerPoint. For assignments, we use ClassMarker to distribute scrambled versions of multiple choice questions with a time limit.

It all works well, I think!

So far the bee hive on campus is alive and I am practicing beekeeping solo because of social distancing.

Tanja Geurtsen

Academic Advisor

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As an Academic Advisor, my goal is to help students throughout their studies at Marianopolis. It is, therefore, very important that I continue to support our students during this time. I connect with them through Zoom/Teams meetings, MIOs and phone calls. I am glad to be discussing their university admissions, supporting them with their current and future courses, helping them to plan their study schedules, avoid procrastination, and even just reaching out to them to see how they are and have a chat!

Personally, I was not sure how I was going to handle working remotely, but with time, I feel like I have settled in and found a good rhythm. I have established a daily schedule that works for me and allows time for activities I love to do. After my daily meetings with students and colleagues it has been nice to go for long walks and bike rides, chat with neighbors at a distance, bake bread and do puzzles. I also started a 30-day online yoga challenge with a few friends!

I look forward to when we can safely return to the College to meet our incoming class and welcome back our returning students. I would also like to congratulate our graduates and wish you all success in your next chapter!

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