Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Resources for teaching during troubling times

Illustrated image of a group of diverse people's hand stacked on top of each other Depicting the concept of Community, Support, and Partnership.
April 19, 2021

Note: The Poorvu Center sent this message to faculty and teaching fellows at Yale on April 19, 2021.

Dear Colleagues,

We write to acknowledge the difficult circumstances of this semester and to share resources you may use in the classroom to address students’ concerns during times of ongoing crisis. We also invite you to join us for a forum: Teaching in Context: Troubling Times (details below).

Yale is influenced by what happens throughout the world and in surrounding communities, and many are focused on the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s death. The recent killings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo remind many of other troubling times experienced throughout their lives. We also recognize increased anti-Asian violence, mass shootings, and the context of a global pandemic. More locally, we have suffered the loss of Yale community members. The current moment challenges students’ abilities to focus and engage in the classroom.

As instructors, we rely on teaching strategies to support our students during troubling times. Whether or not you teach a subject that connects directly to national or global events, your students will appreciate your care for their well-being within the classroom community. More information and resources exist on the Poorvu Center’s website; below, we summarize helpful strategies developed with input from Yale instructors and students.

Advice for framing class during troubling times:

  • Explicitly acknowledge what is going on, and signal understanding about how these events can be distracting or deeply upsetting, and drain energy away from productive learning. You could make a statement at the beginning of class, or share a message with all of your students.
  • Provide no-questions-asked flexibility to everyone. Consider extending deadlines or giving options to accommodate those whose learning is disrupted. Students appreciate not having to ask for flexibility.
  • Plan a buffer that allows students to ease into the lesson or class work. You could introduce a moment of silent reflection or meditation, or suggest some quiet writing. Consider beginning the lesson with a warm-up, such as inviting questions or reminding students about points from the last lesson.

The Poorvu Center will host a discussion forum, Teaching in Context: Troubling Times, for instructors, on Wednesday, April 21 at 4 p.m. The forum will allow instructors to share strategies and ask questions among peers. The center aims to support you and offer help. You may consult with our staff or email us with questions.

Instructors often ask about mental health and wellness resources they can suggest to their students. We have collected the following links for various Yale community members:

Yale College students:

GSAS and Professional School students:


Thank you for all you are doing to maintain educational excellence for your students, and for going the extra mile when called. We are honored to support the Yale community.

Jenny & Lucas

Jennifer Frederick, Ph.D.

Lucas Swineford