Suicide is a heartbreaking issue and it is surprisingly common. This article brings up a lot of questions and it causes me to look at my own thoughts towards my value and the pressures I put on myself. Even more it directs me to think about my influence on those around me, especially my students. How can I consistently interact with my students that shows them I genuinely care for them, not just their grades or success as a student or other identifying characteristics? I also find concern in how I see students interact with or speak of their peers. The other day I heard a girl say “if even she can get a boyfriend, why don’t I have one?’ This comment may seem harmless to the one saying it, but it is crushing to whoever the other girl is. I could talk a lot about this, but simply said I want to work hard to prevent students from tearing each other down.
Many of us are out of our parent’s households, but still hope for their approval and affirmations. I grew up in a small town, the youngest child of a teacher and the high school principal. Somewhere along the line I adopted the identity of perfectionist, afraid to make mistakes or be creative. In reality I was and am far from perfect, for me this was a freeing realization. I am still learning how to “fail’ with grace, to pick myself up from unsuccessful situations and learn valuable lessons. I don’t know how to teach this to students. I don’t want to tell them “go ahead and fail,’ but how do you allow young adults to learn resiliency? Through unsuccessful attempts we are able to gain the skill of making decisions, problem solving and adapting to challenges.
I have to admit that, although I do have a Facebook account, social media really bothers me. There are some neat thing that can be done through social media, but generally I think it can be used to construct and present a reality that is not actually real. When much of our communication is done through social media or texting it becomes very easy to hide behind a mask and convince others that we are happy and healthy. In the article this is called the “Pen Face’ or the “Duck Syndrome.’ I also think that by viewing others lives via social media we compare our lives with what they choose to show online. We quickly can think that our lives, happiness or success are inferior to everyone else. I often catch myself trying put on my best face or trying to keep up with the success of others, but I often need to realize that I am imperfect and have a lot of room to grow, which is a good thing. I then question, why do we all feel like we need to be perfect? If we show weakness or fail at something why do we feel that we are failures?
This also leads me to think, what forms our identity? Is it academics, talent, beauty, athleticism, relationships, money? Any of these things can so quickly change, what do we do when/if they do?
I think suicide or depression has effected all of us in some way. I think for some students it is a very real option, which is terrifying. I think we as teachers can have a huge influence and have a great responsibility in our words and actions towards our students.