I think we can all agree that the last couple of years have been tough for educators.  The sudden shift to online teaching in the spring of 2020 was followed by months of uncertainty about the COVID-19 virus, shifting guidelines from the CDC, and politicization of how individuals, communities, and schools should respond. Our coping skills have been put to the test and many of us are justifiably worn a bit thin.   

male college student in front of laptop with textbook open and hands on head expression of stress

Now imagine that you are a young person, away from home for the first time, bereft of the support system that has created a sense of stability for your entire life.  On top of that, your last year of high school was not the triumphant culmination of your primary educational journey that you anticipated.  You’ve arrived at the university feeling unprepared and unsure of what to expect. 

As you acknowledge that you are dealing with unprecedented circumstances in the classroom take a moment to step back and recognize that your students are struggling as well and there are some things you can do to help them out.  Here are a few ideas your fellow faculty members came up with during the January Teaching and Learning Day sponsored by the CFC.


Recording of Supporting Students in Challenging Times

Here is the recording of the main presentation of recommendations faculty can use to support students in their courses.

Explicitly prioritize student well-being 

  • Provide a check-in at the beginning of each class to let students share what they are dealing with.   
  • Record classes for students that can’t attend and for review by those struggling to absorb content. 
  • Suggest students take fewer classes.  The delay in program completion will be rewarded by a richer learning experience. 
  • Plan for more office hours.  Your students need more opportunities to talk about their concerns and challenges. 

Provide flexibility with your coursework or course delivery plan, without overextending yourself 

  • Grant extensions frequently while having a “no late work” policy.  This allows students to take ownership while also providing a timeline for communication. 
  • Let the students decide the due days of their assignments.  The Canvas default of Sunday at 11:59 pm is less than optimum.  If a class can’t agree on a day and time, propose the worst possible option to encourage compromise. 
  • Let the students choose between a few major exams and more frequent quizzes.  

Connect institutional support with the classroom 

  • Remind students of the CAPS service. Share the information in class.   
  • Discuss the available resources at the beginning of class.  
  • In Suite 201 (CEAP Student Success Center), advisors frequently discuss campus resources with students and provide links to these resources on their advising records every semester.  

Remember that language matters 

  • “Is Jean okay?” vs “Does anyone know why Jean didn’t come to class?”  Choose words that demonstrate concern for well-being rather than demanding what the excuse was for not being in class.   
  • Use attendance to identify students who may need additional attention vs punitive grade action. 

Take care of yourself and find a support network 

  • Ask a colleague to go for a walk together on campus to discuss what happened and is happening – share the load on the road.   

Infuse music, poetry, humor, and storytelling into your course 

  • Students do a weekly Word document (turn in every other week). They get an assignment document and they add to it. The document has creative sketches, ideas for mindfulness, expressiveness, favorite song, make a class playlist. 
  • I always play music in class. 
  • My students write a letter to Covid so they can express feelings. 
  • I try not to talk about Covid so much in class, because there is more to our life than Covid. I want class to be a time for them to be away from stress, to be present, discuss their use of time, ways to use technology (and not), to create balance.
  • Think about writing a SLO that is related to caring.  

Share your own story 

  • Will share an image of my art / work, also a reflection of that time in my life, what I was going through. That should encourage students to share more. I then asked them if this helped, and they said, yes, they liked seeing me fill out mine.  
  • Develop strong student relationships – they will maintain relationships after college.  
  • Instructors share their stories with their students and for them to communicate through art, vulnerability, creativity, innovation. 

Help students tell their stories 

  • Bardo provides exhibition tours and asks classes of students “what do you see?” It results in a freeform discussion, where they talk about how they interpret a work of art. This leads to further discussion – why is this object there, and how we all see different things. 
  • The method used at Bardo is called “Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)”. The exercise rooted in sensory awareness, and students enjoy how the modality and experience is different than sitting in a classroom. Any faculty interested in exploring how “art is therapy” can contact Denise Drury Homewood, to schedule a tour.  
  • Consider an inquiry-based teaching method (helps students learn, describe, and observe…fosters collaborative discussion, diverse points of view, empathy).  


Centre for Mindfulness – https://www.mindfulnessstudies.com/  

Mindful.org – https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/  

Else-Quest, N., Sathy, V., & Hogan, K. A. (2022, January 18). How to Give Our Students the Grace We All Need. The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/how-to-give-our-students-the-grace-we-all-need  

Imad, M. (2021, July 8). Pedagogy of Healing: Bearing Witness to Trauma and Resilience. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2021/07/08/how-faculty-can-support-college-students%E2%80%99-mental-health-fall-opinion