My heart bleeds for my students’ struggles. So many of them are facing all kinds of intense personal issues at home that affect their mental and emotional health, not to mention their grades and academic careers.
In the past month, I’ve had a student decide to take a break from college because she just had a baby and has a full time job, a student who had to room with someone who brought her flea-ridden cat into her apartment and is still (2 weeks later) taking showers in dish soap and washing her dog daily to deal with them, a student whose dad got in a car accident and she is his power of attorney so she’s had to quit her job and spend every free moment at the hospital, and a student who just came into my office crying because I was the only one in her life she felt close to.
Many of my friends, and myself included, did not have these concerns in college. Our biggest problem was not wanting to wake up early or experiencing social drama with our friends. We didn’t have to work one or more part or full time jobs to afford our schooling. We didn’t have to take care of children or siblings or parents. We had social support at home. (Or maybe you did have these concerns and, if so, my heart bleeds for you too!)
It’s hard to see this. It’s hard to notice other people’s struggles while we face our own and it’s hard to bring the emotional energy to care or do something about it. I hate knowing what my students face and giving them penalties for late assignments or missed work. I want to tell them there are sometimes more important things than school. I want to give them hugs. I want to bake for them and pay off their loans and buy toys for their dogs or babies. I want them to only have to worry about their assignments for class and their friends and how early they have to wake up and to solve all of their other problems. I want them to know how much I care and I want them to know there’s always someone they can talk to.
Unfortunately, I am a college professor, and I can’t do many of those things.
But, I am a college professor, and there is something I can do. I can listen to my student cry in my office and give her candy and tell her she can stop by anytime. I can bring my positivity and enthusiasm to my classes and interactions with my students. I can see them and acknowledge their struggles.
And my students are not the only ones who struggle and these are not the only issues. If you are struggling, know that you are seen. You are appreciated. I am here for you. If you want a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen or just someone to feed you candy while you cry, I am here.
Be that person for someone. Understand that everyone struggles, and let your heart bleed for them.