When you are a university lecturer your main job, I suppose, is teaching specialist skills. And the second one is teaching general academic skills. Or the other way around? Well, not relevant for this post. And then, increasingly, it's the somehow supporting students with mental health issues so they have the mental reserves to even get to these general academic skills. It's a stressful world and the students are feeling it! Fortunately, the university supports us; we have a mental health team, and they provide mental health training. But sometimes you can do with more than they can offer. And I am fortunate. I have a sister who's a clinical psychologist!
Some time ago I was trying to coach a student with known issues towards submitting a piece of work before the deadline. And it was a bit of a bumpy ride! And pandemics can make a situation that was already difficult even more complicated. And one morning I woke up to a rather worrying email from said student, that had been sent in the middle of the night, with the deadline being the noon after. Oh dear! I was glad I had my sister. I immediately asked her for advice! And I got a crash course in the mental health issue in question.
I had actually read an entire book about this kind of issue, but there is quite the difference between having read a book and knowing what to do. And how did that book happen? Well, my sister sometimes wants to order books from companies that don’t deliver to Finland. Then she has them delivered to me, and they then find their way to her. And this one caught my attention, and I read it before I passed it on.
Did all that effort help respond to that email in an optimal way? I don't know! The student did submit on time, but I'll probably never know if my assisted response had anything to do with that. Quite possibly not! But I was still good to have that help at hand. I think I said it before; we're hired on the basis of our academic skills, but sometimes what's needed is completely different things! I am so lucky to have back-up.
I did get feedback from the student, and it was heart-warming! It seems I made a difference. With help. Thank you my sister, and hurray to the student. You didn’t let anything stop you from writing that (substantial) piece of work! I take my hat off for that!