I feel like such a failure today. I’m dropping my classes for this semester and next semester in order to lessen the stress on my mind while I go through therapy with Wasatch Mental Health. There’s nothing like walking into a professor’s office and trying to explain you only attended a third of the semester’s classes because you couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed, or couldn’t stop crying. I even had the audacity to ask them if there was any way I could pass the classes having missed so many days. I hope I didn’t offend them by asking. I know I would be.
If you’re a teacher of any age group, I beg you; be sensitive to the needs of your students, even if they won’t be students for very much longer, and no matter how much you think they’re trying to bullshit you. I don’t mean give them a pass if they missed so many days or failed so many homework assignments. I mean understand that they are human beings with hidden problems and desires you might not see. Good chances are they’re not dropping your class because you personally failed them. They may just want to move on to better avenues of learning. Or a different path of healing.
I won’t name the teacher, but one semester a couple of years ago, he made my asking to drop the class because of medical reasons a personal attack. It was during midterms, so he must have thought I was doing so to avoid getting a bad grade. And I won’t lie, that was a reason. But the main reason was I was moving on to a new major. He didn’t give me a chance to explain myself except for a few stammered words about ‘my stomach hurt’ (from anxiety at the time, come to find out). He demanded to know why I was ‘playing’ him, like I was playing a game to boost my grades by threatening to drop the class or something. He wouldn’t even look at my withdraw papers without a doctor’s note, and practically kicked me out of his office.
Do you know what it’s like to pay thousands of dollars for an education you’re not even sure you want, and then to sit outside a classroom for almost an hour waiting for a second meeting with a potentially volatile teacher expecting to be demeaned further because your medical reason for withdrawing from the class is ‘depression’? Depression stigma varies so much from person to person, and I did not expect this teacher to care in the least bit. Fortunately, he didn’t even look at my doctor’s note. He just rolled his eyes, signed the papers, and that was that. But I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified of a single person in my life.
I had learned many things from that teacher. I’d taken classes from him multiple times. But I can only remember him now with pure fear. He personally made it difficult for me to trust teachers at my school, especially when it came to asking for help with depression. He’d never remember me. But I’ll remember his words to me until the day I die.
Teachers, I know how much pressure you have on your shoulders in teaching kids and young adults the things they need to succeed in the world. There is no higher calling in my eyes. But please don’t lose your humanity and decency when you hear a call for help, no matter how irritating or overwhelming that call may be. That call for help may annoy you to the high heavens, but your actions in that moment will make or break that student.
That teacher broke me, and even today the memory of his actions are making my life hell.
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