Students sometimes say it’s easy to forget that MIT exists within the broader world. When something significant happens, they have said that it means a lot to have their faculty or instructors say something in class. Acknowledging big events can encourage students to share what they’re feeling and what is on their minds. This also provides an opportunity for students to connect with peers who they may not regularly see around campus.
You can also consider regularly starting class with five minutes for students to chat. Naming the topics can help you have some say over where the conversation goes.
Chats can be done at the start of every class, intermittently throughout the semester, or specifically after a significant event at MIT or in the world.