Thursday, January 10, 2008

Students in Trouble

Today I write about as subject that is much on my mind - and far more often than I would like.  

College students are often young, but not always so.  They are sometimes immature and unsettled in life, but often not.  Sometimes they are sure of their career plans, and other times, they can hardly choose whether to take chemistry or basket-making.  

They are, in other words, they are an inconsistent bunch.  

However common their... uncommonness, one trait I have noticed over and over in my eight years of teaching is vulnerability.  Yes, that's right.  Students are a vulnerable bunch. 

The young ones are vulnerable because of their age, if for no other reason than that they are still growing up and don't always know how to conduct their own affairs.  The older ones are often vulnerable because they are in transition  - perhaps out of one career and into another, or perhaps out of a marriage and into independence.  Only the very fortunate have parents and friends and others to stand by and help financially and emotionally with the challenges of being in school.  

I am reminded of this today because a student confided in me that she is separated from her spouse and fears that she will have to mend the relationship and quit school because she is not financially able to make it on her own.  I am reminded of this today because another student confided that he has lived in his truck for most of the year because he couldn't make rent - and that the recent cold snap had been particularly brutal for him.  

Believe it or not, these stories are pretty common.  As teachers, what we are tempted to do ti try to solve students' problems as much as we are able.   Of course we want to help.  

However, the right thing to do is to advise students to seek counseling and support from student services.  While we are good at what we do, and while we like to think we are good people, we are not trained social workers or psychologists.  Our job begins and ends with teaching curriculum and silently submitting ourselves as good role models.  Counseling, advice, and aid are the jurisdiction of others.  

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