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University Counseling Center

Academic Faculty: Classroom Climate and Prevention

What part do we play in UR becoming a sensitized and responsive community to distressed students?

As human beings, we all have…

  • Unique personality and communication styles
  • Particular approaches to dealing with others
  • Differing needs for structure / flexibility
  • Unique set of strengths and areas of needed growth
  • Differing ability to handle conflict
  • Certain biases

As teachers, we all have…

  • Expertise in out field
  • A desire to educate and, perhaps, help students develop holistically
  • Differing years of teaching / mentoring experience
  • Unique classroom / lab management styles
  • Power to influence students – wanted or not
  • Differences in desire/ interest / ability to work with students beyond the curriculum / academics

How do these characteristics blend

They are the basis for how we…

  • View ourselves and others
  • Create our unique classroom / lab environment (set a tone)
  • Interact with colleagues and out students
  • Problem solve situations that arise
  • Are aware of and use “teachable” moments”
  • Model adult behavior and responsibility

At our best, we can…

  • Create a positive (safe and stable) environment where students can learn and grow
  • Enhance student learning and self-confidence
  • Set and example for appropriate interactions with others
  • Use “teachable” moments to model for and help student grow in responsibility and maturity
  • Help students become self-advocates
  • Encourage students to take responsibility for their behavior and reap the associated rewards and /or consequences

At our worst, we can

  • Create a negative (unsafe/unstable) environment
  • Hamper student learning and decrease their self-confidence
  • Model or create inappropriate or antagonistic interactions with others
  • Incite or intensify problems rather than resolve them
  • Impede students taking responsibility for and experiencing consequences of their behavior
  • Blame/shame/humiliate students unnecessarily
  • Leave colleagues open to criticism for following policies and procedures when we do not

Prevention – what can you do?

  • Model and expect students to utilize good stress management skills (adequate sleep, eating health etc.)
  • Offer “stress-buster mini-workshops” during high stress times of the semester (we are glad to come to your classes to provide this)
  • Phase feedback positively/constructively whenever possible
  • Understand that some students lack basic “life skill” and are playing “catch up” in many developmental areas
  • Create opportunities for “connections’ in your classroom/lab and work to engage the withdrawn or socially isolated students
  • Encourage students with disabilities to self-identify and utilize accommodations
  • Refer students to time management and study skills
  • Check in with your students regularly and create a climate where it is safe for students to come to you if they are getting “overwhelmed”
  • Encourage use of office hours and help sessions

Intervention – What can you do?

  • Prepare – set aside time to talk
    • Consider what you want to address
    • Ask ourselves
      • What else might be going on for this student?
    • Approach the situation with a willingness to understand/”presumed innocence”
    • Remind ourselves of the goal of this interaction
      • To problem solve
      • To reduce negative behavior
  • Privacy – Talk in private when you and the student have time and are not preoccupied
    • Give undivided attention
  • Honesty – Be direct with your concern and identify that which concerns you
    • Express your concerns in behavioral, non-judgmental terms
      • “I’ve been concerned about you lately. You seem kind of down and withdrawn. I’ve noted you’ve not been coming to class regularly, and when you do, you seem preoccupied and uninvolved. Your last paper was a C+ and you usually do A work”
      • ‘Lately you’ve seemed on the edge. I notice you’re increasingly argumentative in class. I’m concerned about you.
        “You keep skipping class. You’re going to fail if you don’t watch it”

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