Professor Gibson
Thought Bubbles

Teaching Resilience

Stock photo by Jill111 at Pixabay.

There is an interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that asks if colleges should be active in teaching resilience. Students are coming to college with more anxieties, depression, and mental illness than ever before. I’ve seen a huge shift in my students’ ability to “roll with the punches” and overcome the bruises of life. The article by Beckie Supiano starts off with two contrasting statements, “Colleges’ responsibilities to students end at the classroom door. Colleges’ responsibilities extend into every corner of students’ lives.” Where should a university fall along this spectrum?

I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. My responsibility to my students does not end when they leave my classroom. I need to care for them, not in a parental role, but as a human being whose life has value. I hope that they, in turn, do the same for me. I do not want to be their parent. I am not going to remind them they need to study for a test or get more sleep. That is not my job. But, I do need to be aware enough to identify if certain outside influences are impacting their ability inside the classroom.

We are all complex, multi-faceted individuals. We have a desire to be seen in our entirety. I want them to understand the pressures I face as a mother, wife, or a professor. In return, I should care about the pressures they face as well. It’s not easy. I need to be aware, present, and available. I need to have a full cup so I can pour into their lives.

We are seeing an increase in the number of students suffering. Universities need to be aware of this shift and be prepared to handle it. The faculty are on the front lines. They need to be trained to identify these students and know how to refer them to professional resources. They need to be aware, present, and available. In order to do this, they, in turn, need to be supported. Universities should not only reexamine their policies, but they need to create a support system for faculty. If our faculty aren’t supported in work-life balance issues, how can we expect them to pour into these students? If faculty aren’t taught how to handle their own anxieties, how can we expect them to guide students struggling with mental illness? If faculty are not given space to renew and rejuvenate themselves, how can we expect them to pour into the lives of 70-300 individual students a semester? We need a support net that considers all lives at the university and supports resilience in every aspect of our humanity.