There are a number of resources available to help instructors deal with teaching when an institution or our country has experienced a disaster or crisis [see The Innovative Instructor post Quick Tips: Teaching in Challenging Times and Facilitating Difficult Discussions, November 15, 2016], and this blog has covered how to handle student crises, real and not [The Dead Grandmother Syndrome and How to Treat It, December 7, 2016], but what happens when the death or serious illness in the family is your family?
A recent article in Faculty Focus, Teaching During a Personal Crisis (Elizabeth Barnett, February 2, 2018) deals with these issues. Barnett outlines 7 strategies, recommended by experienced colleagues and mental health professionals for teaching during a time of personal difficulty. These are: acknowledge the crisis, triage, consider telling your colleagues, consider telling your students, adjust your expectations, try new routines, protect yourself.
Telling your students may seem like the most controversial piece of advice, but Barnett says:
Wait, you say, this is totally inappropriate. And it would be if you told them in the same way as you did your colleagues, as peers. But if your performance and availability are limited due to the crisis, you can reduce guilt and minimize questions by letting them know something is going on. …[Emphasize] to your students that you don’t need help from them, you have that support elsewhere, and you only want to inform them of the situation.
In other words, you don’t need to go into the gory details, just let your students know that you are experiencing some personal issues that may affect your teaching, for example, that you may be absent, or that someone else may be filling in as instructor for some classes or handling grading of some assignments.
Barnett also offers some tips on dealing with a colleague in crisis, particularly how to listen respectfully and things that you can offer to do to help.
The article is short, but useful. If you have suggestions from your own experiences with dealing with personal crisis, please share them in the comments.
Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources
Image Source: Pixabay.com