Schools everywhere are plunging into a new academic year, and some may find it easy to become overwhelmed by all of the adjustments and uncertainty. From fewer students physically on campus, to social distancing and health concerns, to adapting to a more virtual or hybrid style of teaching than ever – there are plenty of challenges to be found. Despite all the factors that create an ominous feeling of “are we doing this right?” there are some important factors that remain unchanging: indicators for concern.
As your BIT moves forward amidst unavoidable commotion and heightened stress, take a moment to get back to the basics of why the team exists and how it best serves the institution. Review the fundamentals of what behaviors, indicators, and incidents you want folks to refer for assessment and intervention. Review the NaBITA Risk Rubric to reestablish and refocus on those factors that indicate a student (or other member of the campus community) may be distressed or even dangerous. Remember that though the manifestations or opportunities to detect them may have changed, the risk factors and indicators have not.
By grounding your team in this foundational exercise, you will be better positioned to make adjustments to all other facets of your team’s work. Starting from the basics will provide clarity for the team to remain diligent with behavioral intervention, case management, and student support – as those functions have operationally evolved and will continue to do so. With a renewed focus on the behaviors, the team can develop helpful guidance for the broader campus community about how to remain diligent about the safety and well-being of students.
Perhaps it is creating new outreach and marketing material to highlight identifying concerns for online/virtual courses and written word because there are fewer in-person classes – or encouraging early referrals erring on the side of caution. It may be enhancing your public or student facing outreach, to encourage peers and others to submit reports when they are concerned. Maybe the best first step is an intentional plan to assure the campus community that your team is still available, operating, and ready to assist – even if the way you do so may look a little different now.
Don’t stop there! Continue examining how and where your team can make modifications to remain accessible and involved for any concerning situations and respective interventions. Are there opportunities to “work smarter, not harder” within your processes? If you have been considering an online referral option, automated intake forms, an app, or other creative methods to diversify your work, now may be the ideal time to set those systems in motion.
Just remember, the indicators remain the same. They remain the backbone of our work. When everything else becomes overwhelming, get back to the basics and build from there.