Classes that click: Linguistics

By Leigh DeLozier | Emory Report | May 6, 2020

Professor Susan Tamasi sits in front of a laptop

Professor Susan Tamasi adjusted classwork so she and her students could spend more time checking in with each other.

Sofia Garcia-Arias sits in front of a laptop

Sofia Garcia-Arias learned anew how kind and compassionate her professors at Emory were.

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Emory faculty and students continue to focus on high-caliber education, even in remote learning environments. Professor Susan Tamasi and students from her “Language Prejudice” class share their perspectives on finding success in the transition.

Sofia Garcia-Arias did not want to complete her senior year as a remote learner, but the experience reinforced her ties with Emory and reminded her how small gestures can make a big difference. Junior Alexis Greenblatt felt the same, and was glad that technology allowed her to gain a sense of how her classmates were handling the “new normal.” 

Through it all, professor Susan Tamasi admired how resilient Garcia-Arias and her other students were, and was pleased they were successful despite the challenges.

“Classes that Click” is a series showcasing how Emory’s commitment to stellar education continues during the COVID-19 pandemic and how many lessons learned will further enhance life at the university when everyone returns to classrooms together. 

Tamasi, professor of pedagogy for the Program in Linguistics, is joined by Garcia-Arias and Greenblatt, two students from her “Language Prejudice” class.


The course: Language Prejudice” (Linguistics 342)

“Language Prejudice” (LING 342) introduces and examines language attitudes (perceptions, beliefs and stereotypes) that are commonly attached to language and language use. Students investigate where such attitudes come from, how they are disseminated throughout a society and how they affect linguistic choices.

 

Moving toward remote learning

How did you prepare for this phase of remote learning?

Tamasi: I had taught online previously, so I felt prepared to transition to remote learning. I used Canvas for document management, for sharing resources and for submitting assignments. Sara Wade and Leah Chuchran were amazing in putting together resources and workshops.

Garcia-Arias: I have never taken a remote course besides driver’s ed, but I work as a social media intern at a nonprofit in Atlanta and all of my work is done remotely. Before we were quarantined, I had a routine nailed down from waking up to taking the shuttle to campus and having enough time to go to the WoodPEC and shower there and do my homework before class. After the news of the quarantine was announced, I had to come up with a new routine altogether. I prepared a daily routine that involves school-related productivity time every morning. 

Greenblatt: It was a very abrupt shift because I had never taken remote courses. I got tons of emails from all of my professors and downloaded Zoom for the first time.

 

What was one of your primary challenges in shifting to a remote format and how did you meet it?

Tamasi: Needing to cut back on the amount of work (assignments, readings) for the students was a challenge. Making changes such as moving from two readings per class period to one allowed for more flexibility and let us to spend more time in class checking in with each other. 

Garcia-Arias: Being quarantined alone was my main challenge since I have no roommates or family living with me to keep me accountable for basic things like getting out of bed, reading my materials and doing schoolwork. I think having a set schedule and a routine definitely helped me. I had to get out of bed as soon as I woke up, make my bed, drink coffee and either go exercise or do my schoolwork before class. Having a routine made me feel like I was holding myself accountable. 

Greenblatt: Not being able to be with my friends on campus and in class made it very difficult to maintain a routine and stay focused on my class.

 

Putting remote learning into practice

What has been a pleasant surprise about remote learning?

Tamasi: Attendance was very high. Even in the online format we would get so invested in our discussions that we would run out of time in class. Students who were shy about talking in class would use the chat feature in Zoom to add their contributions to our discussions. 

Garcia-Arias: I was pleasantly surprised with how easily most people adjusted to a virtual classroom. I was expecting classes to be much more awkward and for there to be a lot more technical issues, but the awkwardness only lasted a few Zoom sessions before it felt more normal. In classes like Dr. Tamasi’s Language Prejudice class, it felt like we were having an organic conversation that just happened to be virtual. I am thankful that all of my professors actively tried to make the adjustment easier on everyone by posting resources on Canvas like class recordings and PowerPoints. 

Greenblatt: My professors were really understanding about this crazy situation and were more lenient about deadlines. They really worked as hard as they could to accommodate everyone.

 

How are you staying engaged with your students or classmates and professors?

Tamasi: This course is driven by in-class discussion. I was able to keep this going by moving to all synchronous sessions and by giving the students multiple ways to contribute – regular class discussion, Zoom’s chat feature, break-out sessions. I also think the ability to see each other twice a week in class was healing.

Garcia-Arias: I used email as a tool to stay engaged with my professors. All of them were responsive and willing to help with any issues, which I greatly appreciated. 

Greenblatt: For the classes that I had “in person” (on Zoom), I felt like I still had a sense of how everyone was doing. It was nice to see how everyone settled into a new normal.

 

Lessons to be carried forward

What’s one lesson you’ve learned during this transition, and how will you use it later?

Tamasi: Our students are incredibly resilient and we’re very proud of their ability to be present even in the face of anxiety and uncertainty. We cannot take in-person learning for granted.

Garcia-Arias: The biggest lesson I learned from this transition was how sincerely kind and compassionate all of my professors are. Small but powerful gestures like sending a personal email to make sure I was doing okay were particularly moving and made me cherish my experience at Emory and my relationships with my professors so much more. Knowing that my professors had my back and were genuinely dedicated to my success in their classes made my last semester at Emory an incredibly special experience despite the unfortunate nature of the circumstances. Though my time at Emory is over (for now), I am looking forward to nurturing all the relationships I made over the past four years. I am excited about keeping in touch with all my professors and classmates going forward.

Greenblatt: I appreciate in-person learning so much more now! Remote learning is really just not for me and I hope I never take classroom learning for granted again. I will be so happy to be back on campus again.

 

In addition to focusing on the university’s educational mission, Emory experts are on the front lines of the pandemic – caring for patients, researching possible treatments and vaccines and sharing knowledge to help inform and prepare the public. Visit Emory’s COVID-19 page for the latest updates.