Addressing Students’ Psychological Needs in College

We’ve all relied on our school guidance counselors as we were preparing to apply to colleges, exploring the best colleges for our chosen majors or finalizing our top colleges lists. While I didn’t go to my counselor for much more than choosing courses in high school and applying for college, I have friends even back in the day who sought out their counselors for guidance in their personal struggles, both at school as well as home.

Things have changed over the years. School administrators, teachers, parents, and even students themselves have realized the importance of seeking out help and support for mental health issues. And this becomes crucial when high schoolers transition to college. This issue is addressed in detail in the following article.

We frequently hear that today’s students suffer from record rates of anxiety, depression, and stress, that they are emotionally immature, and less resilient than their predecessors. Raised by overprotective parents who, too often, shielded their children from failure and regard their offspring as extensions of themselves, it is not a surprise, many assume, that they are deficient in coping skills and have high expectations for handholding. No wonder, it is easy to conclude, that they want trigger warnings and safe spaces.

Are today’s students more emotionally fragile than those in the past?

Many reports in popular media say yes.  After all, demands upon counseling centers have reached record highs.

The actual evidence, however, is unclear.

Longitudinal studies show no trends that suggest that psychological disorders are more prevalent. Suicide rates among college students have actually fallen.

So what’s going on?

Read the full article Are Today’s College Students More Psychologically Fragile Than in the Past? – Steven Mintz |

STEM-Writing Crossovers

It is not news that writing, and good writing, has become essential in every field of study and profession as well. Today’s students need a more diversified writing education, as I have enumerated on my post on Teaching Writing for STEM here.

There has been on-going conversation and effort in this area, which is exemplified in this must-read blog post for both STEM and language teachers.

In 2006 when I arrived as president at Harvey Mudd College, a small (800 students) science and engineering college in Claremont, Cal., my first order of business was to  lead a strategic planning exercise that engaged the entire campus. We developed a strategic vision centered on six themes. The first step toward our new vision was to restructure our core curriculum—a proud tradition, and, as such, challenging to change.

Our students major in STEM fields but also have a concentration in the humanities, social sciences and the arts (HSA). As a liberal arts college, we value students’ development as communicators, thinkers and scientists. Since our founding, we have focused on teaching our students to write, but this emphasis was centralized among HSA faculty. To communicate that writing is important across the STEM disciplines, we decided to try something new: engage faculty from all departments to teach WRIT 1, our first-year, half-semester introduction to college writing.

via Look What Happens When STEM Professors Teach Writing

Using Movies in the ESL Classroom

Movie day is always an exciting event in a classroom, especially a language classroom. When I worked as a substitute teacher, I would plan for at least one movie day based on the book the class was reading. Over the years, I used various strategies to ensure that my students not only have fun watching the movie, but also engage with the film and relate to it with the context of the text we were reading in class.

Check out some more interesting movie-related classroom activities you can use in an ESL classroom.

There are countless ways in which movies can support your lesson.

For example, they can be used to:

  • Reinforce a grammar point
  • Listen for gist
  • Practice vocabulary
  • Discuss and debate
  • Role play

Movies are a brilliant way for students to hear up-to-date authentic speech and be exposed to various accents. And because there are countless movies based on an infinite amount of things, you can use them to introduce or spark discussions about a certain topic, be it a historical event, a time period or the culture of a foreign country.

And of course, by bringing popular movies into your lessons, you show students how they can learn from and practice English when watching movies in their own time.

Read the full article 10 Creative Ways to Use Popular Movies in Fun ESL Lessons by Fluentu.

Creating Connections in Online Classrooms

Last week, I shared an article about the things teachers need to focus on while creating online courses. As an extension to that thought, we also ought to think about how our students will consume our courses. How are we designing the course? Do we expect to disseminate information and teach concepts or can we also try and capitalize on the social aspect of the online classroom through our course design?

Here’s an article that delves deeper into this issue.

…Although the teacher seemed to be learning lots of interesting things from the texts, she felt something was missing. The chat rooms were spaces to discuss the readings where she could read plenty of intelligent comments in academic language. Trying to use that space to get to know her classmates just didn’t feel right. You know when you go to a library to study on your own? That’s how she felt.

This story made me think of the reasons people look for courses, either face to face or online. When I look for a course, my initial motivation is knowledge. But why don’t I go to a library or use the internet to learn on my own? Learning in a classroom with a teacher allows me to have help when I need it, I can exchange ideas with other people, not only about the topic I’m learning, but about life too. I can make connections and feel I’m part of a group. I can read books and study, but I can also laugh and have a good time. We can’t forget that most of us love learning new things, however, meeting people and making connections is part of our social human nature…

Read the complete article More Than Content, We Want to Make Connections by Ana Maria Menezes.

Models of Online Courses

In my experience so far as an ESL teacher who works from home fairly often, I’ve realized that I could help my students more meaningfully if I create an online course that would supplement some of my face-to-face teaching. To this end, I’ve been exploring options for creating a basic online course, and in my reading, I’ve come across an interesting article that addresses the fundamental issues teachers need to focus on when they set out to create their online courses.

This post was inspired by a question sent to me by a friend, who is a very talented teacher and would like to start an online course. In her message, she mentions not being able to find a good video tutorial which could help her get started and asks my opinion about the best platform.

 As I read my friend’s message, I thought of a way to answer it. In my opinion, a video tutorial showing us how to create an online course in simple steps would be a disservice to anyone wishing to become an online teacher due to the complexity of the task.

Read the full article HOW CAN I CREATE AN ONLINE COURSE? Oh oh, that’s not a simple question by Ana Maria Menezes.

The Elite College Admissions Scandal

The elite college admissions scandal has not only shocked the nation, but has resulted in a loss of faith among many students in the American belief that hard work lies at the core of success in this country.

This scandal has revealed to many that great opportunities are bought for the children of the rich and are not necessarily based on merit. When such a travesty becomes a systemic problem, how can this be addressed by the institutions themselves?

Yale, you’ll recall, spent $500 million to house 800 students in its two new residential colleges, which adds up to $625,000 per student.  USC spent a whopping $700 million on its residential village, which houses 2,500 students.  That’s inexpensive by Yale standards, at just $280,000 per student, in a neighborhood where the average annual income is just one-tenth that amount.

Of course, the champion was Harvard, which budgeted $1.4 billion to renovate its undergraduate residences.

Expenditures like those require lots and lots of money, and, as we have been reminded in recent days, some of the money that elite institutions raise arrives in unsavory ways, for example, in return for special treatment in admissions.  This, in turn, has encouraged other wealthy people to seek their own side doors into elite colleges and universities.

What, we might ask, will be the response to this scandal?

via Responding to the Elite College Admissions Scandal – Steven Mintz |

Explicit Phonics Instruction: It’s Not Just for Students With Dyslexia

“When we know better, we do better.” There is something forgiving and medicinal about that teaching mantra.

I am regularly realizing that I could have taught something more effectively or that I should have been more culturally responsive in my language or practices. Content becomes outdated or is later revealed to be incomplete or inaccurate. Some teaching memories haunt me so much that I have had fantasies about finding ways to apologize to former students for the cringe-worthy lessons they’ve endured.

I recently had a wake-up call around reading instruction, and determined I need to intellectually embrace something that I have long suspected: While dyslexics clearly need robust reading instruction (often more specialized and intensive than their peers), their needs are not as distinct from non-dyslexics as I have previously advocated.

Via Explicit Phonics Instruction: It’s Not Just for Students With Dyslexia – Kyle Redford |