Hi everyone, how are you? Can you believe we’re about to reach September? I can’t; it’s gone so quickly and I haven’t spent nearly as much time outside as I normally do. I have a feeling that come Winter I’m going to greatly regret this. But…c’est la vie. We have to make compromises sometimes especially when embarking on new challenges.
The last time I wrote I mentioned the anxiety regarding returning to school even for just one class. Thankfully I contained my emotions despite walking into class a couple minutes late due to an unexpected amount of traffic. I even survived the icebreaker exercise to help us get to know each other. Being in a classroom with about 25 other people is very strange and scary…especially in the context of COVID and the variants! However that’s not what I want to discuss per se.
My New Teacher
I’m very relieved and grateful to say that I can already see that we have a great teacher for this Humanities class. This was really proved when he sent us a survey of sorts with various questions. Answers were not mandatory but I responded to each with complete honesty.
Beyond the basic questions of name and preferred pronoun, the rest were deeper and incredibly considerate. Though I can no longer access the submitted document I’ll write them down to the best of my recollection.
- Who is someone that you admire?
- What are 2 current social/political issues that interest you?
- What other Humanities courses have you taken and what did you gain/find particularly interesting?
- Why did you choose to take this course?
- What subjects most fascinate you?
- Where do you expect to be in 5 years? In 10?
- What struggles/challenges do you expect to face this semester that could impact or hinder your success in the course?
- What can I do as a teacher to help ensure your success?
- Is there anything else you would like me to know about you?
Why is This so Beneficial for Students?
Well, it provides a safe opportunity to share things that are otherwise quite difficult to explain. This way a student can share their concerns privately, just between the teacher and themselves. On top of that, the student doesn’t have to wait after class or visit the teacher during office hours to have this difficult conversation face to face. I don’t know about you, but this really helps reduce the anxiety of sharing things of such a personal nature.
That is exactly how I felt; grateful and relieved for the opportunity to express myself in the least stressful way possible. (Writing is always easiest for me, so bear in mind that when I say this you may feel an entirely different way. We all need to find what works for OURSELVES.)
The reason I’m dedicating a blog to this subject is because it’s a rare occurrence! I believe it would be best if EVERY teacher did something like this. I’m not saying that there’s a problem with those who don’t because in all fairness many teachers are quite understanding and empathetic if you share your struggles with them in a message or face to face. I’m just saying that I think this is a really great way of going about it with the least discomfort possible.
A Word to the Wise
I’m not you, but I’m in a similar enough situation to recommend having a discussion with your teachers regarding your mental health situation. Even if this survey opportunity isn’t offered, opening up a dialogue is extremely worthwhile! Let’s get into why:
- Your teachers can’t help you with what they’re not aware of. This means you’ll go through the struggles on your own when you could be working in partnership with your teachers to ensure that you do as well as you can.
- It can lead to misunderstandings and thereby impact your grades. Here’s my personal example: One of the things I shared was my anxiety when participating in class discussions. I wrote that I’m afraid of being deemed lazy and disinterested based on my silence in class. Nothing could be further from the truth because I’m quite engaged and the thoughts, reactions, answers and comments are there yet I don’t feel safe enough to raise my hand. When presented with writing assignments I always give my 100%, however I can’t guarantee my level of verbal participation. Now that I’ve communicated this, he knows the real reason behind my silence. Problem solved, right?
- If you run into a serious problem later on it’s likely to be more difficult to explain the situation than if you had opened up at the beginning of the semester. As a side-note it’s also possible that the teacher thinks you’re coming up with excuses to get out of something or get an extension. It’s best to discuss this at the beginning when there are no expectations.
- You’re likely to feel better after sharing, even if it’s uncomfortable at the time. Also, you get to choose what you want to share and what you want to remain private. I already feel better about the semester because it feels like he and I are on the same page. This alone decreases anxiety which is highly worth it!
Things to Keep in Mind
It can be really scary to open up about ones issues, especially when it comes to mental illness. I’d like to assure you that while there are always people encumbered by prejudice, ignorance, stigma, etc., many people – including those in teaching positions – have a heart. I’d go so far as to say that the odds of a teacher being kind and empathic about your struggles can be higher than that of the general population. Why? Because teachers encounter this a lot; especially issues of anxiety and now other illness too. They understand how stressful being a student can be and that we have complicated lives OUTSIDE of school even if we’re fairly ‘young’. I’m telling you this as a reminder that you’re not alone and the only way your teacher is likely to look at you differently is in a positive sense. Not out of judgment or pity, but as a student who requires and deserves a little bit of an extra helping hand. No more – no less.
I’m not here to tell you what to do, but I hope this post encourages you to think about the potential benefit to having a conversation with your teachers. Decide for yourself what is more worthwhile and helpful in your specific situation. As a last comment, here is what my teacher responded with after I sent in the survey. I think this will give you an idea. (I promise that this text is copy-pasted without any changes.)
I wish to write more and will when I can, but at some point let’s chat about how we can best ensure your success in the class.
I mainly just want you to know that I observed your stress about speaking today, and yet I also observed your courage. That courage became even more clear in sharing what you did in the survey and I want you to know that you are inspiring. I appreciate everything you can offer in the class in whatever way you can.
We can talk about how to make things comfortable for you, while also finding ways to use that courage to step forward just a bit more.
Hold your head high and see you next week,
There you have it! Right “out of the mouthes of….well….a teacher.” Haha.
Good luck you guys and take care! Be strong!