Monday, November 12, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Emotional Student

Crying students don’t scare me because I  know what it’s like to be emotional in an awkward situation. I’m the kind of person who cries easily and I’ve been in situations before where my emotions are running high and I’m crying in front of a stranger or on the bus and I can’t do anything about it. Knowing what it feels like to be emotional dispels the fear of other people being emotional in front of me.

The first piece of advice I would give to someone who is in a situation with an emotional student would be to step back and analyze the situation. Perhaps this student is experiencing emotions that are new or unprocessed. Writing takes a lot of emotional stamina that many students are not prepared to exert. They could be using this writing assignment as a method of self-therapy. You may need to advise the student that they seem to be too close to the topic they are writing, and in extreme cases, advise the student to pick a new topic entirely. Outside factors also contribute to being emotional. Learning to recognize the HALT signals will help tutors in these situations. The HALT signals are Hungry, Anxious (or Angry), Lonely (or Low Self-Esteem), and Tired. Without directly asking the student, you can assess the situation and make recommendations accordingly. Realizing that your student may be hungry or tired can help you adjust your tutoring style to fit accordingly.

It is important to be alert and prepared when a student is emotional. At times it is best to keep focused on the paper, and at others you need to play the role of supportive peer. No person is an island and we can all help out when we see someone going through a rough time. You can really make a difference by being kind when a student is dealing with difficult problems. Sometimes what a student really needs to hear is someone affirming that what they are dealing with is difficult. If what they really need is a therapist, do not hesitate to direct them to the therapists on campus that they have already paid for with their student fees.

Sometimes the most we need to do in this sort of situation is empathize with the student that what they are going through is difficult. When I’m upset, sometimes what I really want is for someone to agree that my situation sucks. It’s funny how a little empathy goes a long way. Maybe your student won’t remember the IC FANBOYS IC rule, but they will remember that they got support on a really difficult day and that they didn't feel rejected or ignored. This is crucial if we want students to keep coming to college.


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