Making Time for Connection at the End of the Semester

two students standing six feet apart bumping elbows to say hello. Both wearing face masks as they leave their classroom.

Contributed by Jean Otsuki.

As we near the end of the semester, we encourage you to make time to check in with your students about how they are doing and create space for them to connect with their peers.  Fostering classroom community is meaningful at any time, but can be especially valuable during stressful periods. At this point in the semester, your students will likely be preparing for final assessments in all of their courses and steeped in any extracurricular commitments. Moreover, as Sarah Ketchen Lipson, Assistant Professor at SPH, demonstrated through a survey of almost 33,000 college students across the country through the Healthy Minds Network in 2020, the uncertainties of the current moment has exacerbated the mental health crisis among college students.  Despite being back on campus, many students still feel lonely, as the pandemic continues to pose challenges to community building.  Acknowledging that students are whole people with complex lives in and beyond the classroom, and recognizing that these circumstances impact their ability to engage in your course, are important steps to supporting students.

While instructors are not responsible for serving as therapists to their students, they can play an important part in supporting students.  For instance,

  • Remind students of the importance of rest and sleep to their academic performance and general wellbeing.  
  • Normalize asking for help. Point students to your policies about requesting extensions, extended exam time, etc., and direct them to on-campus resources for academic, emotional, and social support, such as the ERC’s virtual workshop on test-taking, study and self-care strategies.
  • Invite students to visit you in office hours, and/or give students time to connect with each other in small groups during class.  Ease up on class content, if needed, to make time for connections.
  • Help students to prepare for final assessments by offering to help them set up study groups in preparation for the exam, asking how group projects are going, etc.  

Faculty are part of a university-wide effort in supporting student wellbeing.  We invite you to join one of the talks, discussions, and other events at BU that contribute to our understanding of how to support our students, such as the upcoming talk by Professor Lipson on 12/9 on mental health inequalities among students identifying as transgender or nonbinary. In the next weeks, we hope you find time to nurture your own well-being even while you support your students!