Christa Pufahl would always check in on her students in our lectures and would provide fun mind breaks throughout the semester, supporting our mental health. Christa Pufahl's welcoming and warm personality made me feel welcomed on campus after completing my first year online at home. When questions would arise, she always responded back to them and would provide useful and professional answers.
To me, mental health is essential; it goes hand-in-hand with physical health. In fact, at this moment, as we return to online class delivery and renewed concerns about the course of the pandemic, I think that ensuring that our mental health and our student's mental health is critical.
From my own personal experience, I know how difficult mental health struggles can be. I draw on these experiences when dealing with students - although I might not know exactly what they are feeling, I can emphasize. We as educators can play key roles in supporting student mental health and I think we should. Just like athletes can't do their best if their physical health is not optimal, students can't do their best in a learning environment if their mental health is suffering.
I want students in my classes to know that if you are having a rough day or week, tell me - it is in my power to help remove some of the stressors that you may be feeling. Personally, I would much rather a student get a good night's sleep, exercise or time outside if that is what they need instead of getting an assignment in by a certain time. Yes, due dates are important, but we can create flexibility with due dates.
It's simple - be kind and believe your students. I also remind myself to treat my students the same way that I hope my children's (and I have one university age) teachers, professors, and instructors treat them.
--- Christa Pufahl