Where do I draw the line?

While it is important for teachers to be involved in the wellbeing of their students they should also be careful to not be over-involved and learn to step away when the situation needs the intervention of a mental health expert. 

Discussing a student with a co-worker: If you notice unusual behavior in a student and would like to verify your understanding of the situation, you may want to consult with a co-worker who teaches the same class. Remember to be discreet when you do this and pick a co-worker who respects confidentiality. However, if a student has shared a problem with you, remember that they have done so after placing a great amount of trust in you. Never share the details of your conversation with other teachers. If you are uncertain as to how to deal with the situation, talk to the college counselor. 

How to deal with opposite gender dynamics between teacher and student: In a campus setting, teachers, whether male or female, are sometimes the ‘in loco parentis’ (adult standing in place of the parents) for students. Therefore, it is common for female teachers to have male students sharing their concerns and issues with them, and on rare occasions female students approaching male teachers for help. This is not a problem. However, the level of comfort of both, the student and the teacher, needs to be taken into consideration. Also, it is important for the teacher to be aware of the policies laid down by the college authority regarding opposite gender interaction.

How do I know if I’m becoming overly invested with students: In the process of making a difference and building caring relationships with students, care needs to be taken to not become emotionally invested in any one student. It may happen that a particular student, having felt the comfort of sharing and confiding in you, begins to depend on you. It helps if teachers are self-aware and keep a check on their own emotional wellbeing. In any given situation:

  • Be approachable but at the same time, let the students know a time convenient for you during which they can approach you.
  • In situations where you do not know how to help, refer them to a counselor.
  • Whatever is communicated to the student needs to be done consistently and be expressed both in words and actions. For instance, if you ask the student to meet you at a certain time, make sure you are available at that time. 
  • If you feel the student is taking too much of your time and energy, gradually work towards accustoming the student to manage without being dependent. While doing so, have the self-control to detach gradually while assuring the student that you will be there when required.

Although teachers are not counselors, the need of the hour calls for teachers to be empathetic and understanding towards their students.


 

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