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Helping Your Emotional Student

From this Quora Question: What tools and support networks are available to teachers to assist them in properly addressing and meeting the varied emotional needs of their students?

This is a very important question. Sometimes teachers have to make a quick decision in the moment if a student is upset but there are definitely support systems on site. If the situation is not dire then sometimes what is needed is to just allow the student a little space that day. However, it is really important not to minimize the student’s emotional state.

One example of this is when I had a student that walked up to the front of the classroom and interrupted my teaching to try and tell me something. I couldn’t understand what she was saying at first but I could tell that she was clearly upset and even a little scared. She kept repeating what she was saying but she was unable to be clear, so I kept asking her to tell me again what she was saying. I noticed that her lips were beginning to turn blue and then I finally heard the word Tylenol and whole bottle. I realized then that she had tried to kill herself. This was an immediate step out of the classroom to the SAP counselors and a call to 911. She survived but went to the ER and had to have her stomach pumped.

That is clearly an extreme example of an emotionally upset student but it reminded me that we should take it seriously every time a student approaches us and they’re in distress. I remember another student that was sad and quiet and was trying not to be noticed. She typically did all of her homework and classwork and when I asked her what happened on her most recent assignment her eyes filled with tears but she didn't respond. A friend of hers walked up to me and quietly explained that her friend's boyfriend was the one in the news that had been murdered over the weekend. Wow. That was a very tough situation and I immediately regretted even asking her about her assignment. Especially because she did her work 100 % of the time up until then.

Most of the time a student's emotional day is less dramatic than these two examples but they are still important to the student. I did my best to honor that and referred students to counseling when it was clear that their issue was serious or not a passing emotion of the moment.

Support Systems/Tools:

  1. In teaching credential classes teachers take Adolescent Psychology so gain some background in student emotional needs there.

  2. School Psychologists are a very good resource for teachers that want more help in this area.

  3. Student Assistance Program (SAP) counselors offer another level of support with student's emotional needs.

Final Thought: Simply listening to an upset student without judgement really helps most of them and for the more dire situations it is important to refer the student to the school counselor immediately.

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