Wellbeing in the Classroom
Suggestions for increased academic support of student wellbeing:
Members of our academic community have seen, firsthand, the toll student mental health issues take on their academic success. As we work to embrace a culture of wellness and well-being at Wentworth, we provide some suggestions for faculty to consider:
- Have a syllabus statement noting what topics on which you can support students and information on the Center for Wellness if they need emotional support. This includes 24/7 support by phone through the BeWell@WIT program 617-989-4390 and choosing option 2.
- Have campus resources on hand to provide students who you feel need counseling, tutoring, advising, or accessibility services.
- Consider offering one excused absence for a mental health day during the semester. Let students know they can use this if they feel they need a break from a class but will need to make up the work missed.
- Make projects or papers due by midnight vs early morning. Students need adequate sleep and will often forgo sleep to complete academic work.
- Set clear boundaries on when you are available for students and model good self-care by sticking to the hours you provide for academic questions and support.
- Consider bringing mindfulness into the classroom. Three deep breaths before exams or presentations can calm people down or have students become present for the class.
- Consider offering class sections at varying times of day vs all 8am classes. Many of our students are adolescents and young adults, whose circadian rhythm is different than adults. They often fall asleep later, have a harder time waking up and focusing early, and need more than 8 hours of sleep a night to be optimal in physical and mental health.
- Encourage student self-care by encouraging breaks in academic work for students to eat, socialize, be physically active, sleep, pursue non-academic passions.
- For classes/studio lasting longer than 2 hours, build in short breaks for students to stretch, walk around, get some air.
- Discourage student multi-tasking in class/studio. Studies have shown targeted focus on one thing at a time is optimal. Watching movies, checking social media, texting, while in class disrupts the academic and creative process and contributes to poor time management.
- Consider attending programs run by the Center for Wellness such as: Mental Health First Aid, QPR: Suicide Prevention, and OneWIT to increase your knowledge of student mental health.
- Consult with the Center for Wellness staff or your Faculty Wellness Ambassador for guidance supporting a student who seems to be struggling emotionally.
Current Academic Student Wellbeing Initiatives
- Syllabus statements around mental health/campus supports
- Mental Health First Aid Certifications
- OneWIT Mental Health Trainings
- Suicide Prevention Trainings
- CARE Referral Trainings
- Faculty Wellness Ambassadors
- Training at Faculty Days
- Fresh Check Day as an annual Mental Health Fair
- Classroom and Department Trainings on specific Mental Health Issues
Wellness Considerations in Class Scheduling
Development of class schedules that prioritizes the physical and mental health of students.
Lack of class time flexibility that does not consider the adequate sleep needs of adolescents and young adults.
Rigid class and studio times that push athletic teams practice times late into the evening (currently teams routinely practice until 11pm as they cannot begin practice until 5pm).
Lack of required breaks in class or studio time over 2 hours that prevent students from physically moving their bodies or take time away from desks to eat.
A culture of some majors not dissuading students staying up all night working on assignments.
Add more flexibility to start times of classes, especially for first year students. Many adolescents need 9-10 hours of sleep per night and their circadian rhythm pushes their bedtime and waketime later than older adults.
Sleep experts generally advise classes for adolescents not begin prior to 8:30am, with 9am being a healthier target.
Ensure each major has the ability for required classes to be offered at various times of day, allowing the possibility of student athletes to complete their classes by 3pm. This would allow athletic teams to begin practices by 3:30, ideally having students off the fields by 10pm so they have time for food and adequate sleep.
Currently, studio times that go until 5pm are a noted challenge.
Flexibility of class times offerings also benefits commuter students, many who commute a significant distance to campus.
Build in required breaks to classes over 2 hours to encourage students to move and leave their desks for meals vs eating at their studio spaces.
Research shows individuals perform better with time limited, targeted focus time.
Enforcement of building closing times to support the message to students of the importance of proper rest on academic performance.
Have at least 1 day per week when all classes and studios end by 3pm to allow students to participate in clubs and activities. Social connection is key to a sense of belonging and many commuter students cannot stay on campus until later in the evening to attend club meetings and events due to their commute. Having a designated day each week where clubs could meet and/or program would increase students’ ability to participate.
If the academic calendar allows, consider the addition of 2-3 wellness days per semester where classes are not held. Students are often overwhelmed with classwork, employments, and other responsibilities and an additional day off occasionally allows them time to reset.
Future Academic Student Wellbeing Initiatives
- Expanded Training for All Faculty
- Wellbeing Focused Course Offered in Brightspace
- Wellbeing Certificate Program