This article put a lot into perspective for me. Academics can be extremely stressful for students, especially those that do not have a supportive background or those where learning does not come easily for them. In the case of Kathryn, who was the primary focus of the article, she excelled at academics. She received all A’s in high-school, got into her dream college, and had huge plans for the future. However, upon her arrival into college, she became bogged down by self doubt. Almost every part of the article circled back to the doubts she had with herself, the doubts that she perceived that her parents had about her, the doubts in her sexuality etc etc. Schools can be a place with so much pressure. Although school is designed to help students and open a plethora of doors for students, the reality is that Education can be a place of stress, doubt, and fear for a lot of students.
Kathryn dealt with doubting herself. She feared that she would not be good enough to complete her degree, she feared that her parents would be disappointed in her, she struggled with her sexuality, she strurggled with what her peers thought about her. And these emotions were coming from someone who had had a ton of opportunities, and was smart and well off. Even when students seem to be okay, or seem to have a ‘perfect’ life, that is not always the case.
As the article put it, a lot of students have ‘Penn Face’, or the state of acting happy and self assured even when sad or stressed. This was the case with the popular students who committed suicide at Penn State, App State etc.
Every student is going through their own set of problems, difficulties, and life situations. This knowledge can help to inform my practice. It is important to understand that every student in the classroom comes from different backgrounds and has their own unique set of insecurities and self doubts. When these doubts are combined with education, it can leave a lot of students feeling dumb, inadequate, or behind. For a lot of students, school does not come naturally for them, they may not have any family guidance or support, they make work a full time job and have no time for homework etc. When students are not supported, or when teachers fail to be understanding or build relationships with them, the classroom can be nothing but a place of disappointment and depression. It is so crucial to observe students, understand their situations, and help them through problems. You never know what may be going on within the classroom.