Who I Am to Them

Twice in the past seven days, I’ve been approached by students seeking my help in connecting them with reputable counselors*.

It occurs to me that these women saw me as a safe place. They needed help – a particularly sensitive kind of help, because admitting that you need to see a counselor is a very brave thing to do, and it’s not something one blurts out to just anybody – and they chose to come to ME with that.

I’m humbled by their faith in me, and am renewed in my commitment to being the kind of adult that my students can come to when they are in need.

I had a very troubled youth. Were it not for some key adults outside of my family – some of my teachers, one or two of my friends’ parents, a few of my coaches – I would literally not have survived. I don’t say that to be dramatic or to exaggerate a point, either: there was a conscious moment of choosing NOT to commit suicide when I was 16 because I knew that I would disappoint people outside the walls of my house – most notably my adoptive mother. The point is that there were grown-ups in my world who, for whatever reasons compelled them, took a genuine interest in me. They cared, above and beyond their call to do so. I noticed. It mattered.

For better or for worse, I really do care about my students. I care about what happens to them. I want to help them succeed and am willing to do quite a lot to reach that goal. It is important to me that I be available and open to my students, that I be the kind of adult they can look up to and seek out when they have a need I can satisfy, and that I model the kind of behavior that shows them that adults can be approachable, reasonable, and reliable.

I was well cared for. A lot of people worked very hard against the conditions of my home life to help me become who I am, and I owe them a huge debt. I choose to pay that debt back by paying it forward.

(I don’t personally know any counselors – I sent both young ladies to the practice down the street from the college in the hopes that they could be accepted as patients or, at the very least, given referrals to places where they could be seen. It has become plain to me that I should probably cultivate some relationships with mental health professionals in my neighborhood so that, when this sort of situation comes up again – and I know it will come up again – I will have more to offer my students than a “try these folks and see what they say.”)

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4 Comments

Filed under concerns, self-analysis, success!, the good ones

4 responses to “Who I Am to Them

  1. The very fact that these students approached you says that you are “approachable”–vulnerable enough so that others know you are “safe.” You don’t have to do much with this safety you project–just be there for whomever needs a refuge.

    And you are.

  2. Siobhan Curious

    Absolutely. They came to you because they trust you, and I think that as a teacher, this is the biggest gift we can ask for – that we be someone to whom a student can turn. You have made a difference to both of these women. You could stop teaching today and you would have already accomplished a great deal to make the world a better place.

  3. As CTG said, it’s an extremely powerful statement about you (and your reputation among your students) when they are willing to put themselves out there like that. You’ve made that difference in their lives, and I’m sure it means the world to them… and always will. Amazing! Moments like yours are why I teach.

  4. Does the school have a relationship with any counseling services that they can refer you to? You could also ask someone at the University or at a local Planned Parenthood, even if those places don’t have counselors that are right they might know some.

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