Yesterday I logged onto my school email and saw a message from one of my professors:
I just wanted to touch base with you and make sure you’re doing okay. You seemed upset during class yesterday (but perhaps you were just tired).
Let me know if I can help.
If you look back at my recent blog posts, you can see that this week has been tough for me, and when she saw me in class on Tuesday, it was after I had spent the entire night in the suite, crying and writing and trying to study for my 8am exam the next day.
I don’t remember being particularly unpleasant or upset in class that day, but I’m often unaware of how often my face exposes my true emotions and thoughts.
Still, I didn’t walk into class and slam my things down or sigh or groan constantly. I remember paying attention to what was going on, but I didn’t participate in the conversation at all, and it was probably pretty clear that I had other things on my mind.
My professor noticed this and recognized that my behavior was different, but she then took it one step further to ask me about it–to make sure I was really okay. Because people have good days and bad, but people also have things they struggle with on a daily basis that often go unnoticed.
I feel very fortunate to be in the situation I am in. I go to an amazing school that has a reputation for it’s “unusually strong commitment” to teaching, which is something they really try to sell to seniors in high school. When I was a senior, though, I didn’t really know what that meant.
I didn’t know that I would have professors who would stress the importance of mental health being your top priority. I didn’t know that I would have two professors–one for a creative writing class and another for a geography lecture–actually recommend that I seek counseling, regardless of any stigma that’s attached, and then send me links to our university’s health services.
I didn’t know that I would have long talks with some of these professors that honestly felt more like therapy sessions than anything else and left me feeling good about myself and the future that awaited me. I didn’t know they would, in turn, open up to me and tell me about their wife who struggles with anxiety or apologize and say they have to run because they have a meeting, themselves, with a therapist that they can’t be late to.
I didn’t know that my professors would make me feel so cared for, regardless if it were a class of 11 or a class of almost 200. I didn’t know they would give me second chances and encourage me to achieve more, even when I felt like I couldn’t do anything right. I didn’t know I’d be writing scholarly articles alongside them or nominated for awards by them.
I didn’t expect this huge support system. If anything, maybe a handful of teachers would stand out. Or maybe two of them would really push me to publish my writing or vocalize how far they see my potential reaching.
But it’s much more than that.
I’ve had over twenty professors at this school, and they may not all be deserving of this praise, but even the bare minimum seems to have exceeded my expectations. But the special ones make up well over half and their dedication and their support is making more of a difference than I ever anticipated.
I had eleven classes with Professor Pennington before she sent me that email.
It doesn’t take a lot. All it takes is someone who is observant and who will listen. Someone who cares. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make a difference.
That’s the kind of teacher I want to be in my classroom. At the very least.