The other day in my women’s and gender studies class, everyone walked in looking exhausted, sluggish, and overall checked out. My professor asked us how we were doing and collectively we echoed “shitty”, “not great”, “been better”. Hearing our struggle, my professor had us create space to share why we weren’t feeling 100%. Some people talked about anxiety over schoolwork, others mentioned seeing memories of an ex-boyfriend. I talked about some health issues I had been having that were a continuous struggle for me. Every person in the class had an opportunity to say how they were actually feeling instead of the, “I’m good how are you,” that we’ve been programmed to say since kindergarten.
The creation of a safe space to talk in the classroom completely caught me off guard. Professors had asked the class how we were doing before, but there was no real interest in individual students. So I got to thinking, to foster a good education is it essential to create safe spaces to talk about mental health and what is going on in our lives? I think it is. In my experience, the best classes I have had are the ones where professors visually care about the well being of students. This isn’t to say that all professors don’t care, because I’m sure they do, but there are definitely some departments and teachers who show their sympathy more than others.
I think checking in with yourself mentally is important in whatever way you need to do. If you need to take a break from extracurriculars to deal with health issues, like myself, then you should. If you need to order take-out and watch Netflix for five hours go for it. But I think that having mental health checks within the classroom is important to fostering a healthy environment where students feel that their voices and struggles matter.