- Do a check-in exercise where you give students the chance to express their different concerns, then reflect on how to cope with them. You don’t have to have the answers, because they have most of the answers.
- A cliché can go a long way. Say “Yes, this sucks,” “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this,” “Change is hard,” “We’re going to figure this out together,” “Everything is going to be OK”. Ask “How is everybody dealing with the stress?” “Are you all doing alright?” Let your students know you’re with them.
- Slow down. We are in a state of emergency, we might not get through all the material we originally planned on our ambitious syllabi. But, by making room for compassion, we can get through most of it.
- Adapt your expectations. Attendance might be down, participation might be lower or take different forms. Acknowledge that this is because of the circumstances. Assignments might look different. There have been a few articles on this blog on how to adapt your class online. I let my students participate through the chat option on Zoom as well as speaking out, and that led me to get responses from students who are usually very quiet in the classroom. Speeches for this public speaking class are now going to be video submissions instead of live speeches.
- Make sure to tend to your own stress and own up to your responsibility. Although you’re not expected to have the answers to everything, you are the guide/facilitator of your class. In response to all their questions about the schedule, I told my students “I don’t have all the answers right now, but that is mine and the institution’s responsibility to figure out, and you will get an email from us as soon as we know what’s going to happen. So your responsibility is to just check your emails regularly.”
We are all stressed. Many institutions across the US announced this week that they’re going to be moving their classes online. This change came suddenly, which means that for most instructors and students, there was not enough time to train or prepare for online teaching. As we begin to teach online, changes in and outside our institutions continue to develop minute by minute. During these times of stress and uncertainty, add some compassion practices to your teaching: