Acknowledge what happened
Simply recognizing such an event is tremendously valuable. You do not need to say a lot if you are not comfortable doing so. And you should not feel pressure to act as therapists or counselors. But acknowledging the event and the difficulty the class may be experiencing is often highly appreciated by students.
For ideas, consider phrases such as:
- "I am saddened (or angered or frustrated) by . . ."
- "I know many of us have been affected by . . ."
- "Recently the entire campus has been shaken by . . . "
- "It is important for all of us to support one another at these difficult times."
- Some instructors also consider holding a moment of silence for reflection.
It is also helpful to let your class know about resources that exist to help them during stressful times. In particular, consider reminding students of the availability of Penn's Student Counseling (215.898.7021), the Office of the Chaplain (215.898.8456) and the Reach A Peer RAP line (Reach a Peer, 215.573.2727 (2RAP)) or Penn Benjamins. You can also consult with Student Counseling yourself about talking about events with your students.
You can also invite your students to talk about how they want to approach the upsetting issue as a class