A calculus student came in today after being gone several days for school activities. Before she could make it into my room, I saw tears starting to form.

“What’s going on?”

“I’m having an anxiety attack.”

“Ok. You’re not making up that quiz today, got it?” as I held her shaking body.

I ushered her in my friend’s classroom next door, who had plan that hour (and who had the student last year so I knew we could tag team). We closed the door and just let her cry.

Crying is so good for us.

I had to get back to class but I had her write down everything that was stressing her out and put them in one of two columns: “I can control” and “I can’t control.”

And then my friend took over and I left the two of them to talk things through while I went back to my class.

When class was over, she came back in. I could tell she was at least temporarily better. We talked about her list. We talked about what she could control.

I spoke with both her and a family member later and they were so incredibly grateful.

For postponing a calc quiz?

They asked, “What teacher does this for her students?”

And I kept saying, “Literally EVERY teacher I know would have made the same call.”

It was bizarre to me.

And then it hit me: maybe the weird part wasn’t my reaction. Maybe the weird part was the vulnerability that allowed me to have that reaction.

It’s not the response that’s unique.

But maybe having a space where a student feels it’s ok to break down–maybe that is more unique than I’ve admitted.

I’m not saying every kid feels comfortable opening up in my room.

I’m saying I wish they did.

I’m saying I will work to make it that way.

I’m saying I’m thankful this girl does feel that way.

It’s the only way to live: to let people see our real selves.

2 thoughts on “Safe

  1. Jacqueline Woodson’s “Harbor Me” comes to mind as I read this. It’s about a group of students who are given time and space to simply talk with each other for an hour every week. What you describe is precisely, along with your colleague, to harbor that student. To create a space for her to land safely with all of her feelings and then collect herself. Often I think even if we would like to offer these possibilities to students, the systems in place do not always allow it. That’s reflected in the parent reaction. Thank you on behalf of all the future students who find relief in the harbor you create for them.

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