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6-Step Approach to Starting Class

February 19, 2023

Thank you for all you are doing to support our students and our community. On Friday evening, you were sent a letter from Interim Provost Jeitschko highlighting resources to help you in your teaching as we move into the coming week. These resources are available on #iteachmsu’s playlist and include: a recording of Friday’s webinar on Rebuilding Hope: Teaching in the Aftermath; curated written resources; a recording focused on resilience; and information about accessing additional opportunities in the coming week for consultation, discussion, and support for your teaching. 

We send this message today as an expression of support. Included is a succinct reminder of practical steps you may want to integrate into your teaching practice this week.

These suggestions are endorsed by both Dr. Jason Moser and Dr. Alyssa Dunn, who talked with us in Friday’s webinar, and they are aligned with widely recommended practices. Note also that step 5 includes links to MSU CAPS (which provides counseling services for students) and MSU EAP (which provides support services to faculty, staff, and graduate students). We want to be sure you have these resource links readily at hand.

You may want to print off this message for quick reference as we move into the first days of class.


6-Step Approach to Starting Class

  1. Consider sending a brief email ahead of your class time indicating how you plan to run class on Monday/this coming week, which may include:
    • An acknowledgement of the “violent events experienced by our community,” which is the trauma-informed way of addressing the shootings
    • A review of available resources
    • Discussion on plans for the class and potential adjustments to the syllabus that you are considering
    • Emphasis on flexibility and choice (consider modifying assignments, tests, and due dates to support students)
    • A move to continuing instructional content
  2. At the start of your first class back, begin by thanking students for coming together as a community.
    • Approach the beginning with grace, humanity, and humility
  3. Acknowledge the tragedy in plain, direct terms, the loss of fellow classmates/Spartans, and that this loss will be with us in this class and on campus.
  4. Acknowledge and validate that there are various reactions to trauma with different trajectories over time for different people.
  5. Provide links to MSU resources, and SAMHSA, APA, NCTSN trauma information (listed below):
  6. If you do not have trauma-informed training or do not feel prepared to invite discussion of trauma reactions in the classroom for any number of reasons (e.g., size of the class) …
    • Invite/ask permission to shift to the educational/discovery content planned for the day:
      • Now that we are all here in this learning space together, if you are ready, we will shift to the learning content for the day
      • It might be hard to learn right now because of distraction by stress or other trauma-related symptoms and that’s OK
      • Students can feel free to take a break if they want to or leave at any time
      • Demonstrate grace, humanity, humility, and flexibility with class attendance, coursework, etc. in line with university guidance 

If instructors have trauma-informed training or otherwise feel prepared to invite conversation about trauma reactions in the classroom

  1. Consult available resources (
  2. Consider incorporating aspects of the 6-step approach outlined above.
  3. Send a message to your class ahead of time informing students that part or the whole of the class will be used to discuss trauma reactions.
    • It is critical to be clear in your message before class that the class discussion of trauma reactions is completely optional and students can opt in if they so choose and can otherwise choose to not to go to class without any justification or notification.
    • Be clear in your message what you plan to do in the coming class sessions so that students who do not wish to participate in the discussion of their trauma reactions can choose when to return to class.
  4. Some students may have not received your message before class, so be sure to review the purpose of your class session before beginning to allow another chance for students to leave if they do not wish to discuss their trauma reactions and/or hear others’ trauma reactions.

Finally, just as a reminder, Interim Provost Jeitschko reported Friday that students have a Credit/No Credit grade reporting option for all undergraduate courses for the entire semester. Undergraduates will be able to use it to report the grade in any 100- to 400-level course. Students will have until the end of the semester to make that selection. Further details on this process will be made available shortly.

Thank you for your dedication, care, and compassion as you support our students. Your work is central to the well-being of our learners. And please also find ways to care for yourself as you carry on this important work.

With appreciation,

Ann Austin
Interim Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Staff Affairs

Prabu David
Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Staff Development

Marilyn Amey
Assistant Provost for Faculty and Academic Staff Development