A message to teachers: it’s okay to be vulnerable

A message to teachers: it's okay to be vulnerable

Megan Sass, Scribe Editor

I suffer from anxiety. I’m anxious– nearly all the time. Even writing about my anxiety is difficult for me, and I know that others suffer in similar ways. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or any other debilitating mental issue, I know I’m not alone in my struggles with mental health. So why does it so often feel that way?

SHS does a great job of offering ways to help students who suffer from mental health issues. We have many supportive counselors and social workers, as well as teachers we can trust. However, many students still find it difficult to be open about their struggles to their teachers. Why? Sorry, teachers, but it’s because the adults in the building don’t share their own similar experiences with us.

Because conversations about mental and emotional problems stay hidden or unspoken, we assume that our teachers have never experienced similar struggles with things like anxiety and depression. Since we don’t see any signs of personal strain, we suppose that teachers wake up in the mornings, put on a straight face, button their dress shirts and do their jobs without trouble. So we certainly don’t expect them to come to class ready to share any aspects of their personal lives or their past.

But because of this, we can end up feeling like we’re alone. We observe these adults, who we’re supposed to emulate, and they seem blissfully ignorant of such emotional difficulties. When we want to talk about our struggles, we want to do so with people who understand our feelings. Because we don’t see this side of teachers and staff, we don’t come to them with our problems.  Furthermore, it becomes easy to presume that our feelings or problems aren’t valid or important enough to talk about.  This can be debilitating, and frustrating, causing us to feel like we’ve hit a wall.

There’s nothing wrong with vulnerability, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting our lives aren’t perfect.”

— Megan Sass

So, what steps can adults take to make students feel more comfortable when it comes to reaching out for help?

The answer is a simple one- let students know that they are not alone. Teachers and staff can start to take steps towards sharing their stories. Maybe they could share their experiences with depression, but if that seems too personal, even admitting something as simple as struggling with grades in high school can help build bonds. Just by demonstrating that they aren’t perfect, that they understand what it’s like to struggle, adults here at SHS can establish vital trust.

If students realize that their teachers understand mental and emotional problems, they will feel more comfortable sharing. Not only is there an increase in trust and assurance for these students, but now, as cliché as it sounds, they can also now see that things do eventually get better. They see that these teachers, having once suffered through similar struggles as theirs, now have successful live and jobs.

So, teachers and staff must show fallibility to encourage students to share their struggles. It allows teachers to convey the message that, “Hey, you can’t always be okay. And that itself is okay. It’s okay to not be okay. If students feel like teachers are sending them that message, they no longer feel like their problems aren’t important enough to share.  Then they might actually want to reach out for help.

There’s nothing wrong with vulnerability, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting our lives aren’t perfect. This makes us human. We all go through the same things, teachers and students alike.

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