SIP 14.4 Tips to Combat Faculty Fear and Anxiety through the Return to Campus

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

A lecture in the AES building amphitheatre.

Since the beginning of the global pandemic and the shift to remote work in spring 2020, faculty members have had to continuously adapt and update pedagogical methods to meet the needs of students while following public-health protocols. On top of the typical challenges of workload and time management, faculty and staff members went through the major shift of moving classes online and then transitioning to a new Learning Management System. Both of those actions required many of us to learn new technological skills and all of us to learn new ways to keep students engaged in the virtual setting.

The return to campus has brought a new host of changes, rules and mandates that faculty members must follow. The seemingly constant shifts in the way faculty functions, even when the changes are understandable and lead to improvements, have inevitably led to feelings of anxiety and frustration. In general, faculty members are experiencing a loss of control.

The key to maintaining positive workplace morale is for faculty members to be able to be more engaged in decision-making and to have a clearer understanding of why certain decisions and changes are made. Faculty members have several options to help mitigate and navigate teaching within the constraints of ever-changing Covid protocols.

Take a SIP of this: fear and anxiety part II: faculty

To retain a sense of agency and self-esteem (while still following the rules) and set yourself up for a positive rest of the semester, try these suggestions:

If you have 5 minutes

  • Assume good intentions. For example, if you are asked to produce a seating chart, assume this is a measure required for compliance with state or national health protocols instead of assuming it is meant to infringe on your pedagogical freedoms or give you more “busy work” on top of your already-heavy schedule.
  • Send a quick email to your department chair asking for clarification. There may be a simple explanation that sheds a different light on the request.
  • Go to your department senators and ask them to bring concerns to the Faculty Senate leadership team.
  • Visit the Safe Return to Campus website for detailed information about rules and mandates.

If you have 30 minutes

  • When a new rule or mandate comes out in an email from a senior leader, meet one-on-one with your department chair to clarify new guidelines and to make sure the new requirements are clear. The chair can help you address any issues that may arise during implementation of a new mandate.
  • Reach out to colleagues in your department and across campus to inquire about how they are adjusting to the new rule. But see the first bullet above: Assume good intentions. Don’t let your meeting with colleagues turn into a complaint session.
  • Think about ways you can simplify your methodology or teaching structure so you are fulfilling campus requirements while simultaneously lightening your load, thus killing two birds with one stone. For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education published this article on simple and timely changes you can make to your course that will support student success while acknowledging the peculiarities of our current teaching situation.
  • Faculty members are facing a loss of self-esteem or feelings of efficacy in the face of less-than-optimum outcomes in their classes. Even the most seasoned faculty members with the most tried-and-true techniques and approaches are finding themselves in the “try it and see” stages of teaching again and often falling flat. To combat this, visit the Center for Teaching, Learning and Design to get some help with Canvas or other new learning technologies. One half-hour of Canvas training might save you three days of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out how to create a quiz or come up with a new and engaging activity.

If you have an hour or more

  • Sit in on one of the weekly Roadrunners Safe Return committee meetings to get a better and broader understanding about the difficult decisions that must be made.
  • Seek counseling. Did you know that Metropolitan State University of Denver faculty and staff members can get free counseling through the Colorado State Employee Assistance Program? This program is close to campus, and faculty and staff members can receive six free counseling sessions (information on the counseling sessions can be found here).
  • Attend an on-campus or virtual session that addresses physical or mental health. See this free online course, for example, that helps “strengthen your resiliency muscles and spread a little grit in your community.”

Still thirsty? Take a SIP of this:

Here’s an article on “Navigating the Continuing Psychological Pandemic” from Inside Higher Ed.  Informative, reassuring and validating.

Check out this great Faculty Focus article on the “Six Ways to Fall in Love With Teaching Again.”

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