Mentoring Students During COVID-19

As their mentor and professor, students will likely look to you to help them manage this crisis, and find some sense of meaning in the midst of all of the chaos. Students will need you to lead with empathy, and prioritize understanding the complexities and limitations of their learning environment. The current context is not a time to prioritize student accountability. It’s best to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume, like you, they are doing the best with what they have.

How can you help support students anxious about online learning?

Tips adapted from “Coping with Coronavirus“ Kelly Field, senior reporter with the Chronicle of Higher Education and Kevin Gannon (aka the Tattooed Professor)

  1. “Temper your expectations” — you will not be able to create an excellent online course in only two weeks. As Karen J. Head puts it, what we are doing is “crisis response remote delivery, not well-designed distance education.”
  2. “Share your story” – If you feel comfortable, share your experiences with your students. They will find comfort in knowing you are also trying to navigate this new learning environment.

    Here is a great example of how Jennifer Hardacker in Media Arts has both tempered expectations for her students and found humor in sharing her story.

  3. Give students time to process the moment – if it makes sense for the structure of your course, consider how you can make space for students to process all of this change. This could take the form of an icebreaker at the beginning of class, or it could be a deeper engagement if it relates to course concepts.

    Faculty around the country are already sharing playful ideas; such as creating a shared playlist and having a pet photo contest.

  4. Be as flexible and transparent as possible – keep things simple so you can adapt to changing circumstances in your life and the lives of your students. You will likely have to do a fair amount of improvisation, so keep the lines of communication open with students and do not be afraid to acknowledge problems.
  5. Online doesn’t have to be impersonal. Prioritize tools that keep you connected with your students. After all, that’s probably why you and your students chose a small liberal arts college.

Student Guide for Succeeding in Online Classes

This document, Maintaining Your Success as a Student During COVID, was created to provide students with some guidance for how to successfully make the transition to online learning and coursework. Faculty should be aware of the information contained in the document in case students have questions about it. Please feel free to download it and pass it along to your colleagues and students.

What can a faculty member do when a student is anxious, lonely and/or might have significant mental health concerns?

Remind students to access our counseling center. They will have phone and or Zoom appointments available.

You might also encourage students to explore Active Minds. They have COVID-19 specific resources and a network for students to connect with their peers; including a Slack channel, student chat, and virtual check-ins.

Jennifer Yruegas has provided the following document for faculty. It makes recommendations for how to work with and support students who are affected by COVID-19. The document also provides links to numerous resources — on campus and off — for dealing with the stress and anxiety brought about by the pandemic. Please see: COVID-19 and Student Accommodations (PDF in Box)

What can a faculty member do when a student is anxious about their financial aid or their financial situation, in general?

As a mentor, your primary job is to listen and empathize with these real concerns. You, or someone you are close to, is likely experiencing similar anxieties in your own life. Let them know they are not alone. The financial aid office wants to help students navigate these difficult waters, so please direct your students to their COVID-19 Questions page for some detailed information that will help them.