“13 Reasons Why” Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators

“13 Reasons Why,”  a new series that was recently released on Netflix, opened the door for discussions and awareness regarding suicide. The series was based on the novel, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. However, the series depicts graphic images and scenes related to a teen suicide. Much debate has occurred over the various aspects of suicide, bullying, and sexual abuse depicted in the series.  In response to concerns regarding the ‘contagion’ of suicide for those with depression or suicidal ideations, practitioners have provided suggestions for dealing with the backlash.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) provided an explanation of important considerations for educators based on the emotional reactions elicited by the series. I am providing the entire article below, word for word, because of the important implications and the various resources embedded within.

“Schools have an important role in preventing youth suicide, and being aware of potential risk factors in students’ lives is vital to this responsibility. The trending Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, based on a young adult novel of the same name, is raising such concerns. The series revolves around 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people who she says in some way were part of why she killed herself. Each tape recounts painful events in which one or more of the 13 individuals played a role.Producers for the show say they hope the series can help those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. However, the series, which many teenagers are binge watching without adult guidance and support, is raising concerns from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide. The series graphically depicts a suicide death and addresses in wrenching detail a number of difficult topics, such a bullying, rape, drunk driving, and slut shaming. The series also highlights the consequences of teenagers witnessing assaults and bullying (i.e., bystanders) and not taking action to address the situation (e.g., not speaking out against the incident, not telling an adult about the incident).


We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies. They may easily identify with the experiences portrayed and recognize both the intentional and unintentional effects on the central character. Unfortunately, adult characters in the show, including the second school counselor who inadequately addresses Hannah’s pleas for help, do not inspire a sense of trust or ability to help. Hannah’s parents are also unaware of the events that lead to her suicide death.While many youth are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital. Doing so presents an opportunity to help them process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, and reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available. This is particularly important for adolescents who are isolated, struggling, or vulnerable to suggestive images and storylines. Research shows that exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.What the series does accurately convey is that there is no single cause of suicide. Indeed, there are likely as many different pathways to suicide as there are suicide deaths. However, the series does not emphasize that common among most suicide deaths is the presence of treatable mental illnesses. Suicide is not the simple consequence of stressors or coping challenges, but rather, it is most typically a combined result of treatable mental illnesses and overwhelming or intolerable stressors.School psychologists and other school-employed mental health professionals can assist stakeholders (e.g., school administrators, parents, and teachers) to engage in supportive conversations with students as well as provide resources and offer expertise in preventing harmful behaviors.

Guidance for Educators

  1. While we do not recommend that all students view this series, it can be appreciated as an opportunity to better understand young people’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Children and youth who view this series will need supportive adults to process it. Take this opportunity to both prevent the risk of harm and identify ongoing social and behavior problems in the school community that may need to be addressed.
  2. Help students articulate their perceptions when viewing controversial content, such as 13 Reasons Why. The difficult issues portrayed do occur in schools and communities, and it is important for adults to listen, take adolescents’ concerns seriously, and be willing to offer to help.
  3. Reinforce that school-employed mental health professionals are available to help. Emphasize that the behavior of the second counselor in the series is understood by virtually all school-employed mental health professionals as inappropriate. It is important that all school-employed mental health professionals receive training in suicide risk assessment.
  4. Make sure parents, teachers, and students are aware of suicide risk warning signs. Always take warning signs seriously, and never promise to keep them secret. Establish a confidential reporting mechanism for students. Common signs include:
    • Suicide threats, both direct (“I am going to kill myself.” “I need life to stop.”) and indirect (“I need it to stop.” “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up.”). Threats can be verbal or written, and they are often found in online postings.
    • Giving away prized possessions.
    • Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.
    • Changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings. This can include someone who is typically sad who suddenly becomes extremely happy.
    • Emotional distress.
  5. Students who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a student gives signs that they may be considering suicide, take the following actions:
    • Remain calm, be nonjudgmental, and listen. Strive to understand the intolerable emotional pain that has resulted in suicidal thoughts.
    • Avoid statements that might be perceived as minimizing the student’s emotional pain (e.g., “You need to move on.” or “You should get over it.”).
    • Ask the student directly if they are thinking about suicide (i.e., “Are you thinking of suicide?”).
    • Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
    • Reassure the student that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
    • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the student alone.
    • Without putting yourself in danger, remove means for self-harm, including any weapons the person might find.
    • Get help. Never agree to keep a student’s suicidal thoughts a secret. Instead, school staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources. Students should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a school psychologist, administrator, parent, or teacher.
  6. School or district officials should determine how to handle memorials after a student has died. Promote memorials that benefit others (e.g., donations for a suicide prevention program) and activities that foster a sense of hope and encourage positive action. The memorial should not glorify, highlight, or accentuate the individual’s death. It may lead to imitative behaviors or a suicide contagion (Brock et al., 2016).
  7. Reinforcing resiliency factors can lessen the potential of risk factors that lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors. Once a child or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth.
    • Family support and cohesion, including good communication.
    • Peer support and close social networks.
    • School and community connectedness.
    • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living.
    • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict resolution.
    • General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, and a sense of purpose.
    • Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources.
  8. Strive to ensure that all student spaces on campus are monitored and that the school environment is truly safe, supportive, and free of bullying.
  9. If additional guidance is needed, ask for support from your building- or district-level crisis team. The team may be able to assist with addressing unique situations affecting your building.

See Preventing Suicide: Guidelines for Administrators and Crisis Teams for additional guidance.Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) and the JED Foundation have created talking points for conversations with youth specific to the 13 Reasons Whyseries, available online.

Guidance for Families

  1. Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
  2. If they exhibit any of the warning signs above, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
  3. Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
  4. Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
  5. Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.

See Preventing Youth Suicide Brief Facts (also available in Spanish) and Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips or Parents and Educators for additional information.

Safe Messaging for Students

  1. Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. There is help. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.
  2. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about how they feel and let them know you care about them.
  3. Be an “upstander” and take actions to reduce bullying and increase positive connections among others. Report concerns.
  4. Never promise to keep secret behaviors that represent a danger toward another person.
  5. Suicide is preventable. People considering suicide typically say something or do something that is a warning sign. Always take warning signs seriously and know the warning signs.
    • Suicide threats, both direct (“I am going to kill myself.”) and indirect (“I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up.”). Can be verbal, written, or posted online.
    • Suicide notes and planning, including online postings.
    • Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.
    • Changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings.
    • Emotional distress.
  6. Separate myths and facts.
    • MYTH: Talking about suicide will make someone choose death by suicide who has never thought about it before. FACT: There is no evidence to suggest that talking about suicide plants the idea. Talking with your friend about how they feel and letting them know that you care about them is important. This is the first step in getting your friend help.
    • MYTH: People who struggle with depression or other mental illness are just weak. FACT: Depression and other mental illnesses are serious health conditions and are treatable.
    • MYTH: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it. FACT: People, particularly young people who are thinking about suicide, typically demonstrate warning signs. Always take these warning signs seriously.
  7. Never leave the person alone; seek out a trusted adult immediately. School-employed mental health professionals like your school psychologist are trusted sources of help.
  8. Work with other students and the adults in the school if you want to develop a memorial for someone who has died by suicide. Although decorating a student’s locker, creating a memorial social media page, or other similar activities are quick ways to remember the student who has died, they may influence others to imitate or have thoughts of wanting to die as well. It is recommended that schools develop memorial activities that encourage hope and promote positive outcomes for others (e.g., suicide prevention programs).

Read these helpful points from SAVE.org and the JED Foundation to further understand how 13 Reasons Why dramatizes situations and the realities of suicide. See Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide for additional information. “

Similarly, an article from U.S. News.com by Alexandra Pannoni also provides suggestions for parents and educators regarding the premise of the series that allows guided discussion about suicide. The four main points for take away included:

  • ensure the discussions are in the context of suicide PREVENTION
  • allowing the children and/or teenagers to lead discussions while you engage in active listening
  • be aware of the warning signs
  • have them ask how their friends are doing

April 18th Session: Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era

To access the audio recording of the session, click here!!

Our last Provisions session of the Spring 2017 semester explored the theme of “Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.” Presenters shared experience and expertise with the various topics pertaining to the theme that sought to explore teaching methods for helping students learn in the post-truth era. An audience of approximately 15 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Becky Landsberg from the Department of Biology, Ryane Struas from the Department of Political Science, and Jay Kibby from the Neil Hellman Library.

Becky Landsberg started off the session with her presentation on Teaching Science in a Post-Trust World.”Becky discussed how she aspires to teach her students how to light their own fire in the dark while being blindfolded.” Due to the wide variations among what students believe, Becky wants her students to be able to see lies, wrong information, and know the difference between information that is real and not real. In order to do this, Becky uses aspects of the scientific method with a case study discussing an alternative fact– vaccinations cause Autism. In examining this case study, the students break into groups and analyze two separate pieces of data. One is a graph that shows Autism diagnosis rates and she asks her students, “what can you infer from the graph.” The second piece is a data table from the actual study conducted by Andrew Wakefield, the one who originally claimed vaccinations caused Autism. Becky then has her students vote on whether they would vaccinate their child and reasons why or why not. A third graph is then shown, which demonstrates with the decline of vaccinations there is an increase in the cases of measles. The final component of the case study asks the students to once again examine the data tables, but this time to look for flaws in the design. Becky ended with how she teaches her students that they need to visit the sources from where news is coming from and that just because it is said on TV does not make it true. 

Next up was Ryane Straus who presented on “Fake News: How to spot it, Why it matters, and What to do about it.” Ryane began by discussing a new group project about democracy. Ryane begins by having her class define ‘democracy’ and then examine the U.S. as a case study, and asks her students, “do we meet the definition of democracy?” This project brought up discussions of the 2016 election and how fake news was an factor important in making the candidates look different than they really were. Ryane provided her class with three different readings that demonstrated how ‘fake news’ was getting more views than actual stories. In addition, she showed a video that demonstrated how to reconstruct a video to determine if it’s ‘real’ or not. In groups of three, students were asked to submit proposed topic, conduct a 10 minute presentation to cover 5 questions, and then the topics were shared by the students. Ryane explained how her students found commonalties among the presentation topics, which included poor grammar and typos, very short or overly long articles with picture, no author listed or no available information about the author, no verifiable facts, a lack of website credibility, and a lack specific details within the article. In sum, Ryane discussed how her students enjoyed the project, learned about how to identify fake news, and were going to apply what they learned to future news. 

Last to present was Jay Kibby on “What can librarians do to help?” Jay spoke about vetting both scholarly and non-scholarly resources. There are typically five ways to determine the authenticity of sources, including:

  • Authority- what credentials do they have and where was it published
  • Accuracy- are there typo and spelling errors?
  • Currency-is the information fresh?
  • Agenda-what is the author trying to convey and what will he/she gain?
  • Author’s sources- are there links to the actual sources?
  • Peer reviewed or editor reviewed- is there evidence of review?

Jay stressed the point that just because there are editors, the information is not automatically deemed true. Information literacy instruction can be provided by the library and tailored to any individual or group need. Forms are available for any professor to request literacy instruction from the library for their students. At any time during hours of operation, students can access the reference desk, where there is always someone available to assist. Students can request 1:1 appointments with the library staff for assistance with information literacy or other related services. In addition, there is an option to request assistance via the web, as well as a FAQ forum for students to access. As part of the Community Service and Outreach program, Kate Moss coordinates student events, the social media presence, and therapy dogs within the library. Jay shared an example from CNN to demonstrate the strong influence that “fake news” can have as a political slur. Lastly, Jay provided the audience with a handout containing library contact information and two simple, yet effective methods for spotting fake news. 

Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era: April 18th Session

How can educators teach students to evaluate news in a post-truth era??

Oxford Dictionaries defines post-truth as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,” which has been named the word of the year. According to a segment “Fake News” by 60 Minutes, the term fake news can be defined as “stories that are deliberately fabricated and proven false…they are lies.” However, terms like ‘true’ and ‘false’ appear to be arbitrary in that people do not agree on one definition for the terms. What one believes to be true may be perceived as false by another, and so begins the search for the truth. Fraudulent computer software is programmed with fake social media accounts to automatically ‘like’ and ‘share’ posts, which present the impression that millions have viewed and or shared the post. Once posts appear to be viewed by millions, actual people with real accounts begin to read and share those posts, producing mass distortions of the truth. 

A recent study conducted by Stanford University explored students’ abilities to determine the credibility of electronic information. 7,804 students across 12 states were administered various tasks to access their ability to analyze for credibility of the information. Sue Shellenbarger writes about the results in her article, “Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds.” Nearly 82% of middle school students were unable to identify the difference between a real news source and a “sponsored content” story, 2/3 “couldn’t see any valid reason to mistrust a post written by a bank executive arguing that young adults need more financial-planning help,” and 4/10 believed a photo solely based on the headline of the post. The article also mentions that “by age 18, 88% of young adults regularly get news from Facebook and other social media, according to a 2015 study of 1,045 adults ages 18 to 34 by the Media Insight Project.” Students excessive use of media and lack of knowledge regarding credible sources of information create the need for education on the issues. 

In the article, “Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News,” Katherine Schulten and Amanda Brown discuss ways of introducing the concept of fake news to students. The article discusses ways of which to increase student awareness of the various ways in which new is fabricated and how to distinguish fake from real news. Within the article, the authors provide links to various resources to help demonstrate the influence of fake news. Upon sharing an image (the same one used in the study by Stanford) to promote initial thought, the following questions can be used as discussion prompts:

  • What does the phrase “fake news” mean?
  • When have you or someone you know fallen for or shared fake or inaccurate news of some kind?
  • Why does it matter if we can’t tell real news from fake news?

Please join us for our upcoming April 18th session on “Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.” Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂

March 28th Session: Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential

Click here to access the audio recording from the session!!

Our second Provisions session of the Spring 2017 semester explored the theme of “Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential.” Presenters shared experience and expertise with the various topics pertaining to the theme that sought to explore the academic success center and the supports that it provides to students. An audience of approximately 20 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Marcy Nielsen Pendergast, Executive Director of the Academic Success Center, Shirlee Dufort, Director of the Writing Center, and Jess Brouker, Assistant Director of Intercultural Leadership and First-Year Programs.

Marcy Nielsen Pendergast started the session by providing an overview of the Academic Success Center in her presentation, Using Student Success Services to Their Fullest Potential.Marcy discussed how the Academic Success Center has evolved over the years, along with the services it has provided to students. The center is currently located on the second floor of St. Josephs and offers a variety of services, including content tutoring (small group sessions), open lab-drop in, study clusters, math placement support, writing tutors, disability services, and study skills support. Open lab drop in is designed for students to come in for assistance with their business, accounting, math, and science course lab work, which approximately occurs for 15-20 hours per week. Study clusters are offered campus-wide and can be designed at request by students or faculty at any time during the semester. Math placement support is provided by the assistant director, Matt Woods, for those those who need to retake the math placement assessment before acceptance for admission. Disability services provide students with accommodations across campus to ensure academic success. Study skill support assists students individually with mastering effective study skills, with time management being the main skill worked on across students. Students are able to sit down with a tutor to map out their week and study strategies to help accomplish the tasks for the week. Marcy concluded her presentation by discussing a challenge frequently faced by the Academic Support Center–getting students in the psychical space. Marcy explained that the students that are there most often tend to be the ones who are doing well academically.

Shirlee Dufort started her presentation by sharing a quote from Abraham Lincoln about preparing for presentations, as she did for this one.  Shirlee mentioned how studies demonstrate that one of the best ways to learn is to work one on one with someone, and that combined with interactions from the writing center tutors, have shown Shirlee the positive effects the writing center has had on many students on campus. The writing center asks students to come prepared with two copies of their work, to read that work aloud, and make appropriate corrections along the way (edit and proofread). Shirlee shared that reading aloud uses a different part of the brain to stimulate a different perspective of what has been written. Shirlee finds the warm and welcoming atmosphere to be one of the most important aspects of the writing center. One of the most effective components of the writing center is that the student is always in charge of their own paper, as opposed to a tutor taking over the student’s paper. Tutors in the center use reflective listening, as students need to feel heard to be more receptive to the feedback provided. One common misconception of the center is that the tutors are there to correct errors, but instead they are there t0 teach writing skills by teaching concepts for the student to apply. Many English 105 classes bring students in for an overview of the services, which gets the students into the place for the first time and makes them more likely to return. The tutors are trained to work with all types of students and for all ranges of writing, although there are also ESL and ENL tutors for those in need. Shirlee ended by presenting a new initiative where a writing lab is offered on Friday mornings from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm for students to come in and work on a computer while provided with tutors who can help when in need of assistance.

Lastly, Jess Brouker presented on the Academic Opportunity Experience (AOE) program, which contains three counselors who provide resources to those students who are not generally admissible to the college. The program requires the students to complete course before starting at the college and provides opportunities for the counselors to work with them for the duration of thier time at the college. Transcripts are reviewed to decide if they will be admissible, and then those accepted will have an orientation day and an accompanying interview. The first year launch is week long ‘academic bootcamp’ which entails an English class prep course with Shirlee, math class with Matt Woods,  study skills course with Marcy, and group workshop with the AOE counselors. Group workshops help to prepare on how to be a ‘student’ at the college (i.e. where services are located and what are they used for, how to talk to professors, and how to navigate the college website). Each student in the program is paired with one counselor who checks in on a weekly basis. These students are also offered private tutoring through the Academic Success Center. In addition, these students can request standing appointments with the writing center (same time and day each week), are offered pre-advisement sessions, and receive mid semester reports, which take their schedules and send a report to all their professors to help to give the students a ‘heads up’ and see how they are doing.

Please join us for our upcoming April 18th session on “Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.” Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂

Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential: March 28th Session


In 5 Questions for the Director of the Kirwan Center for Academic InnovationJoshua Kim explored the purpose and drive behind what drove the creation of University System of Maryland’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation by interviewing the director, MJ Bishop. In this article, MJ Bishop shared insight into the design of a systems-wide student success movement. Bishop stated, “The projects I enjoy most are the ones that really capitalize on our “system-ness” and the strengths our diverse institutions bring to the conversation about how to improve student success. Those are the ones where working at the system level brings value above-and-beyond what the individual institutions can accomplish on their own.” In terms of an ecological framework, the Kiran Center for Academic Innovation appears to use a systems-wide approach to improving student success through interactions among the various systems of student’s life. Ecological based frameworks have been shown to be effective means for improving psychological functioning, should it also be utilized for promoting student academic success at the college level??

Similarly, in Breakthrough Pathways to Student Success, Steven Mintz discusses methods for which he believes can help colleges and universities to promote academic success for students. One of the methods he discusses refers to designing ‘a more integrated, proactive, and holistic set of student support and skills building services.” In other words, student academic success centers should aim to provide students with an ecologically based system of support. In addition to adopting modularized curriculum, competency-based curriculum, alternate credentials, guided pathways, ‘learn and earn’ models, and pipeline programs, Mintz believes colleges and universities need effective student success centers that include:

  • support programs to assist students with money management
  • support for effective study and test-taking skills
  • a focus on reading, writing, and quantitative skills
  • coaching to advise students how to deal with challenges outside of the classroom (systems-based approach)

The College of Saint Rose Academic Success Center

“What we do is in our name: offer the tools needed to guide your path to academic success. Through our learning assistance programs, we seek to provide all students with academic support outside the classroom and equal access to information in the classroom. Our goal is to not only help students become independent and confident learners, but also to increase their academic success and help them reach their ultimate goal of graduation. At Saint Rose, academic support services are an interactive partnership between our staff and the students we serve. We look forward to working with you and enhancing your learning experiences at Saint Rose.” 

Services provided at the Saint Rose Academic Success Center include:

  • Disability services
  • Math placement support
  • Writing Center
  • Tutoring information
  • Study clusters

Please join us for our upcoming March 28th session on “Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential.” Our esteemed presenters from the Center for Student Success for the March 28th session include:

  • Jess Brouker – Assistant Director of Intercultural Leadership and First-Year Programs
  • Shirlee Dufort – Director of the Writing Center
  • Marcy Nielsen Pendergast – Executive Director of the Academic Success Center

Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂

February 21st Session Summary: Raising the Bar While Providing a Safety Net for Taking Creative Risks


Click here to access the audio recording from the session!!

Our first Provisions session of the Spring 2017 semester explored the theme of “Raising the Bar While Providing a Safety Net for Taking Creative Risks.” Presenters shared experience and expertise with the various topics pertaining to the theme, in which sought to explore creativity and increasing student expectations. An audience of approximately 20 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations by  Christina Pfizer from Teacher Education and Sophia Paljevic from New York City Public Schools, Dave Clark of the Criminal Justice Department, and Risa Faussette from the History and Political Science Department. 

Christina Pfizer from Teacher Education and Sophia Paljievic from NYC Public Schools, a graduate from the College of Saint Rose, presented on Using the Classroom Community as a Safety Net for Encouraging Students to Take Risks . Christina and Sophia began by explaining how they use literature as a basis for their approach to teaching, emphasizing the importance of care. Specifically, both use Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs framework as a foundation of support for what you believe, what community you latch onto and the need to feel safe in order to take risks and complete higher level work. Sophia discussed her experience in the Bronx with her third grade students. She emphasized that building a school community can be achieved despite the school being located in a  ‘bad community.’ Within her classroom, there are 29 students whom she is responsible for instructing. Both presenters stressed the importance of knowing each students’  individual strengths and weaknesses in order to know how to help them do better without pushing them too far (scaffolding). Christina then discussed her teaching experience and how she aspires to learn names quickly, usually within the first and second classes. Christina also uses scaffolding with her students by beginning with easier assignments to help her students feel that ‘they can do it.‘Additionally using groups as a way for students to get to know one another, creating opportunities for students to integrate prior knowledge, and emphasizing that it is okay t be wrong are a few strategies Christina uses with her students to maximize student success. 

Dave Clark began his presentation by expressing the importance of intrinsic motivation for student success. Dave stressed how students are afraid to take risks in learning and thus need to be stimulated with motivation and the desire to learn. One way Dave encourages creativity and motivation in his students is by using images to stimulate interest. He asks his students, what are you seeing in these images” through a partner activity where one students is asked to describe an image to the other. Dave expressed that these types of activities teach the students to see environment in their own way and that each person has their own perspective. This demonstrates to the students that ‘no one sees things the same way.’ Throughout work with his students, Dave has witnessed improvements in the ownership of student work, which thus raises the bar because the students learned that they have to produce good work for it to be displayed. In his classroom, Dave asked the students describe and talk about images because perspective is crucial in ethics. In doing this, students are able to find out about the subject matter, use a multidisciplinary approach, and demonstrate creativity. This method is designed to stimulate interest and to show students that they can be creative in school, rather than just regurgitating information they are taught. Exercises like these provide students with a safety net, as they are not graded and allow the teacher and students to take risks together. 

Risa Faustete discussed how she sets the classroom environment prior to the first day of class, which demonstrates that ‘this is a real course’, which is crucial for development as a student. A main component of Risa’s course is learning the rules and methods of argumentation. Risa explains to her students the downside of not being able to recognize the components of an argument in the real world (politician, salesman, banker, etc.) and how decisions in an argument can affect others. Risa emphasized that her teaching philosophy is to make sure that students have this skill and can use it in the world. She tells her students that they will be able to read and compose arguments by the end of the course, but they must first be able to read and understand what they have read. Additionally, engagement is a key component for successful learning. In her classroom, Risa does not let any of her students sit in the back row. Instead, all students are to fill in the seats in the front of the room. If you want participation in your classroom, you need to take away some of the fear that students experiences. Some do not feel familiar with reading text or comprehending text. By explaining to the students, here is what I mean by ‘reading’ the text, you can alleviate some of the fear of the unknown. It is also helpful to start by having certain assignments ungraded and explain that it is just for practice and constructive feedback. Here are some of the handouts from her course that Risa shared during her presentation:

Following the brief presentations, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions from the audience. Here are a few points and observations that arose from the discussion:

  • Failure is a part of learning- use it!
  • Students come in wanting one answer and need to be pushed to learn that there is more than one answer
  • Link to creating community in the classroom
    • Being vulnerable
    • A ‘real person’ with personality
    • Make community between students
  • Assignments are up ahead of time- bring your best game, extended hours, demonstrate a lot of examples
    • Use rubrics to grade samples
  • Teaching and learning is a developmental process
  • Time as an issue?
  • Accountability?
  • Teach skills that can be transferred across disciplines (core skills)
    • How do we ensure the delivery of those skills?

Please join us for our upcoming March 28th session on “Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential.” Our esteemed presenters for the March 28th session include:

  1. Jess Brouker – Assistant Director of Intercultural Leadership & First-Year Programs
  2. Shirlee Dufort – Director of the Writing Center
  3. Marcy Nielsen Pendergast – Executive Director of the Academic Success Center

Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂


Due to a conflict with the (re-instated) Advisement Day luncheon, the March 21st Provisions has been moved to March 28th

Please join us for our upcoming March 28th session on “Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential.” Our esteemed presenters for the March 28th session include:

  • Jess Brouker – Assistant Director of Intercultural Leadership and First-Year Programs
  • Shirlee Dufort – Director of the Writing Center
  • Marcy Nielsen Pendergast – Executive Director of the Academic Success Center

Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂