That word alone could bring a sense of dread to some students as well as parents who are preparing for the sometimes-daunting task of transferring or enrolling their children into the educational behemoth.
Or, even for current college students – thinking about the looming academic year might bring on the sweats with the unknowns and uncertainties to come, like applying for college jobs and internships or juggling mounting responsibilities.
Going back to college, handling complex emotions and potential worrisome ones, like depression, on top of learning through COVID-19 can be a lot. How does a student already focused on their schoolwork, social life and other typical concerns navigate this complexity?
Detroit School of Arts School Counselor Curtis A. Calhoun Jr. has some answers.
He serves as the school counselor and the foundation for social-emotional support and academic support/interventions.
Calhoun said that sometimes students who don’t perform at their best academic capability experience high levels of stress and anxiety, and he helps meet them where they are.
“I am constantly checking in with students virtually and face-to-face to see what barriers I can help remove to ensure [good] mental health and to ensure they are engaged academically,” Calhoun said, adding that he also allows students to vent and gives them brief cognitive behavior therapy to “help them understand that they are not alone.”
Calhoun said that as he works with students at the high school level there are a lot of parallels with handling collegiate and high school stress.
“I see a lot of the same emotional needs in both populations,” Calhoun said. “For example, students who are emotionally unstable or having unaddressed trauma typically do not perform well in school. Also, depression is huge with this population because their brains are still being developed and process things at rates that are developmentally on track.”
De’Nisha “Dinah” Beasley, restorative practitioner/trauma-informed trainer and a former school counselor, told The Michigan Chronicle that she creates curricula that train educators on using a trauma-informed approach with their students.
“This COVID-19 pandemic has been traumatic for many students, parents and educators,” Beasley said. “People have experienced so much loss whether it be through death, loss of employment, loss of housing, loss of relationships and much more. This can impact people in different ways.”
Beasley added that for many college students the pandemic has heightened their levels of stress and many students are experiencing anxiety.
“Stress and anxiety can impact their behavior and their school performance. It’s important for educators to know how to recognize and help students who are experiencing stress and anxiety,” she said. “That is what many of my training sessions provide.”
She also said that many teachers have stated their “biggest concern” with students has been a lack of student engagement, especially in a virtual setting.
“Many teachers who are teaching virtually are having a hard time getting their students to turn on their cameras or even participate in class,” Beasley said. “It makes it very difficult for teachers to help students manage stress and anxiety if they cannot see or interact with them. It’s important to note that stress and anxiety can cause students to withdraw and disconnect from relationships and responsibilities.”
Beasley said that it’s not all gloom and doom for college students because as they start to spread their wings many may feel more independent especially if they are of age. However, being on one’s own comes at a cost, too.
“Many college students have adult-like responsibilities — bills, work, rent — and may have more stress related to that,” she said. “I think … college professors, can implement things in the classroom to help reduce stress and anxiety such as: being flexible with due dates for assignments; giving students options — providing options for students can help students feel like they have some sense of control and feel empowered to make decisions that impact their grades which can help reduce stress; keeping students informed of changes and ways current events may impact them.”
Beasley emphasized that stress is a normal part of life and a normal human reaction that happens to everyone, but it’s important to navigate those emotions healthily.
“Stress often becomes toxic when people don’t have supportive, nurturing relationships to help buffer against the stress they may be experiencing. That is why having supportive, compassionate educators is so important,” she said. Educators have the power to help students manage the stress and anxiety they may be experiencing, and the classroom can be a place of safety for many students.”
For more information visit www.thecrss.org.