This semester I am more mindful than ever that some of my students are in extremely stressful circumstances. Between the normal stresses students face (family health issues, paying for college, etc), I also have students who are refugees, who have family members that might be deported, international students wondering if they will be sent back home soon, and LGTBQ students worried about their safety and place in society. Some students can take the stress of an exam on top of all of this, and for others its the tipping point to really being overcome with anxiety.

Because I’m an adjunct and run a company as my full-time job, I can’t pause work to grade a full set of hand-written exams – I need to grade them on the weekend. But I get that this grading delay, alone, might cause extra stress – waiting another 3-4 days to see how you did on that exam you were already worried about?

So I gave all the students a choice. I told the class that if they personally were not going to be able to eat or sleep because of worrying about their grade, they just needed to write “Please Grade Early” on the top of the exam. I promised that I indeed could make an hour this evening to get just a few exams graded.

Four students took me up on the offer. Three students put smiley faces next to “Please Grade Early.”

Handwritten notes from three students that say Please Grade Early with smiley faces

Just finished grading those four tests and it felt good to make this one stressor be a little lighter for them this week. We can all take small steps to help our students cope with the stresses they face. Consider how you might make a minor adjustment somewhere to relieve the pressure that students might be feeling these days.