One of the best ways to support students in your classroom is to make sure it’s part of the first conversation you plan to have with them. We can provide a specific script on how to have a conversation—which may alleviate any angst or hesitation. Consider these steps while also sharing concerns:

How Faculty Can Respond

  • Talk to the Student (email, face-to-face, or virtually)
  • Share Your Concerns (privately and objectively)
  • Receive their feedback and gather information
  • Refer to Counseling, Madison Cares, etc. if needed
  • Follow-up with the Student
  • Consult with Our Office

A Basic Script for Sharing Concerns

After asking the student to meet privately or if you are speaking over email, we would suggest the following steps:

  1. Describe Your Observations: Objectively describe the behaviors that you’ve noticed that lead you to be concerned:

    “I’ve noticed that… [describe what you’ve noticed; examples: you’re not participating in some of the group discussions; you’ve missed a lot of class lately; you seem really tired; some of your classwork seems less organized than prior assignments; you’re getting angry with some of your classmates; you smelled of alcohol during class today]”.
  2. Share That You Are Concerned. Express openly that you are concerned and why:

    “I’m a bit concerned because… [keep it broad; examples: this seems like a shift from what I’m used to; I know that you’re a capable person and want to do well in this class; I don’t want to see you burn any bridges with your classmates].”
  3. Ask for the Student’s Perspective.Ask the student to provide context for your observations. The assumption here is that you (as professor or staff) don’t have enough information to fully understand your observations and you’re looking to the student to provide the missing context. You want to help, but you need more:

    “What can you tell me about this?”, “Help me understand a bit about what’s going on.”, “Does this sound familiar to you?”
  4. Encourage Appropriate Connections. Ask the student what they are already doing for support. Encourage other connections:

    “What are you doing to take care of yourself right now? Are you connecting with some support here on campus?”, “What can we be doing to help here?”, “Where do we go from here? What steps have you taken so far and how can I help?”

    “If it’s okay with you, I’d like to connect you with one of my friends over in the Dean of Students Office. They are great at working with students who are dealing with some extra difficulties and have a lot of connections to work with. Can I connect you over email or share your information with them to get things started?”
  5. Establish a Follow-up Plan. In almost all cases, please plan to meet again with the student, simply to check in. This does two things: it emphasizes that you really do care and it creates a subtle hint of accountability for some of the planning steps suggested:

    “I’d like to get back together with you in a few days to see where things are.”

Scripts for Making a Referral

  • With your permission, I’d like to connect you with the folks in the Dean of Students Office. The staff there are great at working with students to get them connected to various resources around campus [not so subtle plug], and coming up with plans to address any concerns you may have.
  • It’s important to me that you’re connected to the right resources to assist you. Who are you talking to about this? Have you considered a connection to [insert resources]?
  • Based on what you’ve shared I might suggest a quick connection with my friends in the Dean of Students office. I’ve worked with [staff member name] there several times with good success for students in the past. Should I connect the two of you over email?

Script for Following-up:

  • Let’s plan on connecting after class this week so I can see how things are going. I’ll be interested to see how your trip to Counseling Center goes.
  • I wanted to check in with you to see how things have worked out since our last conversation. Did you end up dropping the class?
  • Be specific if following up over email; avoid vague questions like, “How is everything?” and “Did everything work out?”
Syllabus Statement

One of the best ways to support students in your classroom is to make sure it's part of the first conversation you plan to have with them. Below is sample language for classroom syllabi that encourages students to share when they notice behavior that concerns or worries them. Please use this language when communicating with students about classroom expectations and add to your course syllabi.

Example of Syllabus Statement:

Supporting Fellow Students in Distress:

As members of the JMU community, we each share a personal responsibility to express concern for one another and to ensure that this classroom, online environment, and the campus as a whole remains a healthy and safe setting for learning. Occasionally, you may become worried or concerned about a fellow classmate's well-being or you may be concerned about yourself. When this is the case, I would encourage you to share these concerns with me or to the university's care program called Madison Cares. Once you submit a care referral, someone will follow up with you through email.

Back to Top