How can you provide pastoral care?

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Providing pastoral care may come naturally to you, or you may need to develop your skills in this area. As you will have discovered in Nadine Muller's (2014) article: Supporting Student Wellbeing in Higher Education: Why & How, one of the best ways to help support well-being in your students, is to keep your life in balance. Taking on every student issue, alone, will add to your workload, and create stress. Knowing when to refer students to the many support services that are available, and when to ask for advice and assistance from colleagues is essential.

Most importantly, if you maintain an inclusive classroom, your students will develop their confidence within a trusting environment, and feel comfortable asking for help. People need empathy but they don't need pity, and being able to offer practical assistance as well as listen is key. For example, you might advocate on a student's behalf to save them having to go round explaining their difficult situation to several people. Think about whether it is better to be pro-active or wait until issues arise, such as lack of engagement and low attendance.

  • What other ways could you provide pastoral care on a daily basis to your students?
  • Are there any boundaries, or issues that you simply should not discuss with your students?

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Think of a time when a student approached you to talk about a situation that he/she was finding difficult or challenging.

1. Description of the situation.

  • Describe the situation, and what you did when the student approached you.
  • How did you act, and what was the student's response?
  • Describe your discussion with the student and the solution that you both reached.

2. Reflection about decisions and actions.

  • Why do you think the situation arose for the student?
  • How well do you feel you supported the student?
  • Why did you act as you did?
  • What else could you have done?
  • What have you learned from this encounter?
  • What will you do in future to support students?
Remember to use a pseudonym, not the person's real name.