Monday Musings...I Want to Know Your Name

After three weeks of sleeping in, eating home cooked meals, reconnecting with friends, students (and their teachers) have to get back in gear as the new semester starts up again. If it wasn’t so cold, we’d all jump out of bed with excitement Monday morning, right? Well, apparently that excitement is more often mixed with dread. I never quite looked at it that way before.

We all tend to look through life through our own lens of experience and how we are wired. I used to think that everyone was just as pumped as me about starting up again. I look forward to change, I run towards the unknown with great energy and excitement, but after spending the last month reading over 2000 comments by grade 12 students, I have a whole new insight into the head space of teenagers and young adults, and it will forever change me as a person, and most importantly, as a teacher.

For many young people today, the fear of the unknown fuels anxiety and becomes an all-consuming fire as post-secondary choices are the kindling; academic pressure to secure placements or progression in their programs are igniting flames of fear; the uncertainty of job prospects after graduation are stoking the cinders of insecurity; mounting debt blazes through self-confidence; and let’s not forget relationship turmoil that just adds oxygen to the inferno of uncertainty of the future. There is forest fire of epic proportions smouldering in mental health, but according to these students, no one seems to be noticing. In their words, no one seems to care.

As I read every anonymous form, I was overcome with the reality that every day, in every class, sit students who on the surface appear fine, but underneath the mask, they are really, really, struggling. And it doesn’t matter what type of home they come from, what their intelligence level or athletic ability is, whether they have a ton of friends or not, there is this huge void of knowing how and who to ask for help. And so they don’t. Instead they suffer in silence, feeling they will be judged, told there problems are not big enough, or that if they do reach out, their ‘stuff’ will be shared with other people. If they are burned even once by not feeling listened to, they are done and will retreat into their own head space to try and figure things out, things that may be too big for them to handle on their own.

So as a teacher, I want to stop making assumptions that those under my influence see the world the same way I do. I want to create a classroom that somehow helps students to, at least temporarily, shove the worry from internal and external pressures aside, so they can have the mental and emotional energy to learn what they need to combat stress and be successful in life. I want to be better able to read the faces of those in front of me who have deeply hidden stress and are too afraid to reveal it. And I want to be worthy of being trusted and have the capacity to be truly helpful so that maybe I can help prevent more sparks of student stress from catching fire.

This week’s song is Name, a classic by the Goo Goo Dolls. Each student’s form told an incredible story as the pieces of the information they provided wove together. I have very vivid pictures in my mind of each student who gave me the privilege of reading their thoughts (yes, each one). And I do wish I knew their names…

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