It’s been a year since classes at Kent State went fully virtual and many have admitted to struggling with their mental health, professors included. Although the pandemic has surely impacted everyone differently, professors at Kent State are determined to still make their classes worthwhile.
“I was really trying to think about ways that we could make things accessible to everybody,” said Joshua Stacher, an associate professor in the department of political science. “So, in my class they can either read the material or have a documentary of some sort, or there’s usually a podcast. They just have to show up having done something like that.”
When the pandemic first hit and classes moved online, there was a sense of panic and a desire to make things as normal as possible.
“My first impulse was to not lower standards at all, you know, not to change anything and make everything work just like it had as much as possible,” said Elaine Frantz, a professor in the history department at Kent State.
Quickly, however, professors realized they would need to adapt and become more lenient.
“I think I was actually tough for a couple of weeks on my students … which was made out of my fight-or-flight desire to keep things just like they were,” Frantz said. “We realized that it didn’t have to be just like it was so we could really create a new thing that would work better in our circumstances, but I think it took a little while to even psychologically place where that was okay.”
Not only are professors concerned for their students’ mental health, but they also have to ensure they are taking care of their own. For Stacher, he takes to meditating, journaling and yoga to keep up with his mental well-being. “All of that happens daily,” Stacher said.
It can be easy to think that a professor’s life is completely different from that of students’. However, they are prone to struggle in just as many ways as the students are.
“You know, rates of depression and anxiety can be seen across the lifespan,” said Jennifer Waugh, assistant director of the Counseling Center. “So, I think professors probably do experience a lot of it but just for different reasons maybe.”
Despite becoming accustomed to the virtual class setting, this doesn’t mean professors don’t miss the opportunity to see students in person. Frantz is lucky enough to have that opportunity.
“I’m enjoying this semester,” Frantz said. “Having a hybrid class I really found it just made me very happy to come back to work and I realized how much I have missed it.”
Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Stacher has adapted the way he teaches the class to allow him to know his students on a more personal level.
“My number one concern on these online platforms was creating a community,” Stacher said. “I don’t know that I’ve created a community in terms of on the screen but through the interactive journals that we write, I know my students now better individually than I have ever known them, although I wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a lineup.”
Resources on campus are available for not only students but also faculty and staff. For those who feel like they are struggling, Waugh suggests practicing self-compassion.
“The first thing is just noticing if you’re experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety,” Waugh said. “A lot of it is about stress management and how we respond to stress and so I think there’s that and I think there’s practicing self-compassion.”
Cassidy Gladieux covers mental health. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.