How Can I Be Responsive to Students' Needs?
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Make Space for Well-Being
- Be flexible. Of course, you will continue to challenge students intellectually, while simultaneously understanding that sufficient emotional support is the critical foundation from which learning occurs. We’ve all learned that students need more support from us than ever before, and importantly, the support we give them only enhances their ability to engage academically. Be patient with students, and yourselves, as we continue to figure out what we all need during this year of transition and continued uncertainty.
- Be Proactive. Have conversations about well-being with students early and often. This normalizes the process of accessing help and prioritizing our well-being. Ask students what kind of support they need from you. This is an opportunity for you to establish norms of open communication and create psychological safety for students.
- Create space/time for emotional expression. Your role is to be a warm, supportive presence for students who are struggling. Allow students to connect with each other and share what they’ve been feeling, and when possible, integrate their intellectual and emotional selves in the classroom.
- Practice care. Supporting students' well-being can take a toll on our own. Please do what you need to recover and recharge. When students see you practicing self-care, or when you talk to them about it, they realize that their community supports and prioritizes self-care. Remember that the Faculty Staff Help Center is available to you as a confidential resource to support your mental health and well-being.
- Instill hope. You’re in a powerful position, and what you say greatly impacts students. Levity and hope bolster our spirits during difficult times, and is not frivolous, but rather the easiest way to rebuild our capacity after stress. When appropriate, create space for humor, share positive news, and model realistic optimism without invalidating ongoing suffering.
- Connect students to each other. Offer students an opportunity to connect with each other outside of class. Students will likely still be feeling isolated and lonely even when on campus. Classroom peer-to-peer interactions provide structured and safe social opportunities for students to connect and expand their community outside of their residences. Consider utilizing pair and small group work throughout the year
- Connect them to other support resources. You are a wonderful first source of support for students, but none of us should be a students only support. Stanford is full of resources dedicated to student mental health and well-being. Connect students to these resources to supplement the support you’re already providing.
- When possible, connect with students individually. It can be difficult to gauge how students are feeling without seeing them in person, or only seeing them in a group context. Connect to students one-on-one when possible, and try out modes of private conversation that work for you and create a sense of safety and trust for the student. This creates a space for students to share their struggles with you, and ultimately, for them to get the help they need.