Other ways to search: Events Calendar | UTHSC | UTHSC News

Teaching in Tumultuous Times


Last Updated:
March 17, 2023

First Published:
March 18, 2022


When local, community, or global events impact our classrooms, it can be challenging to maintain focus on teaching and learning. Teaching may feel mundane or even irrelevant in the face of tumultuous events. Sometimes a student’s identity or a faculty’s identity may make them especially vulnerable to the impact of natural disaster, violence, or tragedy. Faculty should recognize their own limitations in assisting students and prompt students to reach out to trained professionals for mental health or resource-based support. Faculty can, on the other hand, recognize tumultuous events with their classes, extend flexibility to students and yourself, and locate resources to support your learners.

Use the comments section below to let us know your ideas about teaching in tumultous times.

  • Research reveals that even a brief recognition of violence or disaster from faculty positively impacts student learning and sense of well-being.  

  • Faculty should remain mindful of their own mental and emotional state in tumultuous times, particularly the impact events have on their own communities and identities. Finding a support group or being open with students about difficulties can alleviate stress in teaching during tumultuous times. 

    • Martinez-Cola, M., English, R., Min, J., Peraza, J., Tambah, J., & Yebuah, C. (2018). When pedagogy is painful: Teaching in tumultuous times. Teaching Sociology, 46(2), 97–111. https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X17754120 

  1. Acknowledge tumultuous events. Recognizing natural disaster, tragedy, or violence, even in a brief statement of acknowledgement, can help students learn and increase their sense of well-being.  

  2. Prepare before you facilitate discussions on the topic. If you decide to talk to your students about tumultuous events, prepare in advance so that you are ready to include all your students, provide moments for written reflection and offer students a chance to sit quietly as needed. You can use strategies like ‘rounds’ in which each student is given time to respond to or pass on a prompt without interruption or judgement. Alternately, you can give writing prompts and ask students to write about their emotions and thoughts.  

  3. Avoid using a deficit-model of teaching when talking about tragedy. A deficit-model focuses only on the tragedies experienced by a specific community. Instead, find ways to balance teaching injustices with instances of resilience and triumphs created by people from marginalized groups.   

  4. Offer your student campus and community resources, such as hotlines, food banks, and counseling centers to utilize if they are struggling with mental health, food or housing insecurity or other pressing needs.