Small Steps for a Compassionate Semester

As can be said about effective teaching in general, compassion and empathy matter deeply this fall for creating an effective and safe classroom atmosphere. You can take a few small steps to ensure that you and your students experience a compassionate semester:

  • Be kind to yourself. Your newly hybrid remote, blended, online, or physically distanced course is not going to be perfect—and that’s OK. This is unfamiliar territory. Be patient with yourself, focus on what’s most important, and be prepared to adjust your plans as you go.
  • Build responsive and resilient dimensions into your pedagogy. Our students, like the rest of us, are juggling multiple obligations which COVID has made even more complex. Know your students’ struggles if they’re willing to share, and craft alternative activities / assessments should any student face difficulties.
  • Find your way with your students, together. The new environment may initially feel quite awkward and strange for everyone. Have a good laugh with your students when things happen (for instance, you discover you’ve accidentally muted them and then can’t figure out why they aren’t responding to your questions!). Ask them about how the experience is working for them and respond to their concerns. You’ll see in just a few sessions how much more comfortable everyone will be navigating this temporary environment.
  • Communicate a message of understanding frequently to your students. Be flexible in your expectations, understanding with each other as you smooth out the bumps, and commit to learning from each other as you go. You may not be able to accomplish learning in exactly the same ways as before, but you may be surprised at solutions you come up with together. 
  • Ask for help when you need it. Chances are, others are experiencing the same challenges and weird scenarios – share your struggles and discover new ways to resolve them!

Kyle Sebastian Vitale, Ph.D.
Associate Director
Center for the Advancement of Teaching
Temple University