Supporting Academic Well-being in a Time of Crisis
When a major global event is unfolding, students may find learning more difficult. For many of our students, the Israel-Hamas war is very distressing, and this distress may make it difficult for them to perform to their usual standards in their classes. Faculty can take some actions that help support students who are struggling in this moment.
Some ideas to consider:
- Whether or not faculty bring the crisis up, students are thinking about it: Many students have personal connections, and most may be affected by the stories and images about the war they see in the media.
- Faculty don’t have to be experts in the escalating crisis in the Middle East to express care and hold space for their students.
- Students appreciate any action faculty take to acknowledge that they may be struggling.
There are many ways that faculty members can respond in their classes to extend support. The following list includes a range of practical strategies. However, faculty should only do as many as are appropriate for their specific contexts and personal capacity.
- Acknowledge that many students are hurting and worried and offer a moment of mindfulness to allow students to recognize any emotions they may be experiencing and prepare themselves for learning.
- Share this article featuring Georgia Tech experts who describe the conflict and a list of resources available to support student well-being.
- Honor student requests for learning accommodations and encourage them to ask for this help when needed: it is hard to concentrate when consumed by worry and grief, but not all students may feel comfortable asking for the support they need.
- Offer extra review sessions to help students who need to take some time off to catch up.
- Invite students to have a one-on-one conversation with you about how they are feeling and how it is impacting their experience in your class. Refer them to the counseling center if they need more support than you can provide.
- During times of crisis and concern, adopting a trauma-informed approach in your courses can help students who have experienced any prior traumatic or stressful event from feeling retraumatized by classroom discussions.
- Should a heated discussion breakout in your class, remain calm, avoid taking a side or alienating any particular student perspective. Guide the conversation away from conflict between individual students. Acknowledge that the situation is creating strong feelings, invite students to take a short break, and allow students to leave class early if they need to.
- Consult these CTL resources on Handling “Hot” Moments in the Classroom and Responding to Traumatic Events, which provide some additional strategies.
Supporting students’ academic well-being is important all the time, not just during times of crisis. Explore these resources for ideas on how to nurture academic well-being and to create a positive learning environment. When students are supported in ordinary times, it makes it easier for them to be resilient in times of crisis.
Thank you to the Provost Teaching and Learning Fellows and Dr. Laura Carruth, Associate Vice Provost for Transformative Teaching and Learning and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, for their contributions to this article.