Mental Health Purpose of Teaching

Helping Students Invest in Their Educations

At the start of the spring semester, I encourage everyone to read this brief op-ed in the New York Times. The author argues that a key to getting the most from college is wanting to get the most from college. Though this may seem obvious, it is a point worth reiterating, especially to a generation of students who seems–understandably–hesitant to reinvest themselves after the pandemic upended so many of their hopes and plans.

Students are still navigating the many ambiguous losses of the pandemic, and we can play a central role in reminding students that it is worth investing their best attention and effort into their learning.

Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Do what you can to connect what students are doing in your class to other aspects of their education, to issues and ideas they care about, and to ideas for post-SLU opportunities.
  • Find material and activities that are inspiring and that push students to think in new ways. Short popular articles can offer a “hook” into deeper engagement with more challenging texts.
  • Consider the effects of technology in your classrooms and how technology is becoming a barrier to belonging and investment in education.
  • Model what it means to be a passionate and engaged learner by bringing in current events that are connected to the courses you are teaching. Spending five minutes at the start of a class demonstrating the long-term relevance of what students are learning can be very motivating.
  • When students are struggling, remind them of the growth they’ve already made as a learner, and remind them of the big picture. It is easy to get mired in a fixed mindset. Remind students that there are always ways to grow.
  • Help our students pick up their heads so they don’t get lost and overwhelmed by the details. As the semester progresses, students may need to be reminded of the big picture so that they don’t lose steam.

As always, I am very happy to talk about ways that you might engage your students this semester, helping them invest in their educations. Please just reach out, and have a great spring semester!