I recently had the pleasure of being able to chat with a couple of former students that had frequent encounters with anxiety… students that are now of the age to be able to reflect on some of those past behaviors they engaged in during those anxious moments that drove their teachers crazy!
It was interesting to hear the insight they were able to provide and reflect upon when it came to some of their past behaviors. To put it all together, I asked if they thought it appropriate that I write a letter reflecting their voice to their former teachers. I got approval before posting this.
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Letter to Teachers
Remember that time that I was really goofy in class and refused to do any of my work? I really just needed to release all of the chaos going on in my head and try to bring some fun into my day. I needed to ease my tension. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to make others laugh. Instead, I was disciplined and removed from the class.
Remember that other time that you removed me from class? You assigned a writing assignment and insisted I write about what I knew. I never told you this but, had you been my English teacher, you would have known that writing is super hard for me. I wish you knew that! I can easily express what I know through my art or through conversation. Oh, how I wish I could have just drawn what I learned and explained it to you verbally. However, you insisted I write it down. Well, that’s why I became super goofy in class that day and stopped attending your class anytime I could from that day on. I know this now. I just didn’t know how to communicate it to you when I was younger.
You see, sometimes I just couldn’t do my work. Yes, I was capable of doing it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to. There was painful stuff going on outside of school. I felt like it was all my fault. I often became anxious and needed some lighter moments.
You know how you insisted I put my sketchbook or headphones away? Well, those were the tools I was using to take my mind off of things. You insisted I put them away because you believed they were distracting me from the work I was to be doing. I refused. I got in trouble and was disciplined, but you see I really needed those tools to help relieve the anxiety I was feeling in those moments. As you disciplined me, I became increasingly anxious… feeling like I just couldn’t win no matter what I did.
Trust me, I was able to pay more attention to your teaching and the lessons when I had access to tools such as my sketchbook or music to listen to. They kept me distracted from the anxious thoughts and negative reflections I had going on in my head at the time.
You see, I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed. I didn’t desire to stand out. Taking a break from the class would have likely helped me, but the thought of approaching you to ask for one made me anxious. I know I live with anxiety. It sucks! I frequently didn’t feel supported, which didn’t help either. This is something I continue to struggle with.
Remember all those days that I didn’t even make it to school? I don’t even know how to describe all of the thoughts and fears that went through my head on days like that. It is like my anxiety and fear absolutely paralyzed me… fear of failure, fear of letting you down, fear that you didn’t like me. I often sense the latter to be true. I still believe that you held a grudge toward me for past behaviors that felt out of my control as I did them.
I didn’t mean to hurt you or cause any uproar within the classroom. I’m honestly a good kid with a big heart. I simply didn’t know how to access the support and compassion I so badly needed at the time.
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to these former students for being open and sharing insight into their perspectives of what was going on for them at the time!
If you are looking for some great resources for a loved one your life to work through anxiety, the following resources may help:
Stuff that Sucks: A Teen’s Guide to Accepting What You Can’t Change and Committing to What You Can by Ben Sedley.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne. This book offers several treatment strategies that can be worked on within a home environment at one’s own pace.
Has anxiety impacted your student life or the life of a loved one in any way? I welcome your thoughts on this in the comments below.
As I get more into adulthood, the more I think that adults need to stop treating kids like kids and instead treat them like fellow adults. When adults don’t listen, when adults think they know better, when adults want a kid to just behave – it’s ignoring all sorts of information the kids is trying to give you. I might just be channeling my thoughts from watching Spiderman Homecoming, but I wish adults had treated me like an adult when I was a kid.
It is so important for our kids to have a voice for sure, Colleen! They may not express themselves like adults want them to, but the behavior is communicating things in the only way they know how to express themselves in the moment.