Experience with College Anxiety and Panic Attacks
This is the story of one teacher (let’s call him John) who experienced something that changed his teaching approach fundamentally. Once at one class, he received an urgent message from a teaching assistant: one of the students was having a panic attack.
He ran out of his office and found a student in the chemistry class lying motionless on the ground.
The student could not move her fingers, head, or legs and was crying not understanding what was happening. John was watching her slipping in and out of consciousness. He asked to call 911 and was holding her hand ensuring the student that help was coming soon. He was thinking whether an exam was a reason for a panic attack and how to deal with such situations. It was just sometimes he was teaching this course but he already knew it was really difficult for many students.
In addition, there was a little reputation of doling out a few A scores. It was the main source of stress and health problems for students who were afraid that a low score in organic chemistry would prevent them from entering a medical school. The teacher had no idea that his exam could cause a panic attack. Luckily, that day there was a student who knew the basics of emergency help. He led the girl through several breathing exercises and could calm her down.
When she raised to her knees, the girl said that she panicked because of the reading questions. John was thinking about whether he could have done anything to avoid it. The following day he had a lecture at the same class and told them about this situation not mentioning the girl’s name. He started with a question if somebody of students thought it was a weird course and many raised their hands.
Then the teacher presented them with a slide of flowers in different shapes and hues and smiled: he told students that he thought of them as flowers with various needs. They might not blossom at the same time but they would. They might not perform great in the exam but they would make conclusions based on their mistakes and do much better on finally. John really believed it.
From that time the attendance of his classes increased a few times. If earlier just a few students had come (those who had the highest grades) and now a bunch of struggling pupils attended lectures trying to do their best. Some of them asked about upcoming topics and overall strategies, others opened up with their problems: family issues, depression or health. John was amazed by how a simple frank speech can bring such results.
Educators don`t have to wait for a crisis to remember about students` emotional needs as it took John to transform his teaching approach. Now he talks about mental health at each course giving students a speech about flowers and identifying places where they can get extra support. Before exams he makes students use special devices to estimate their current mental health and then shares results on the screen. It helps them realize that they are not alone in being stressed and receive necessary words of support.
He also remember the names of all students: it might seem a small thing but challenging when it comes to a large class. They value it and are more likely to ask the teacher for help because John recognizes them as unique personalities. Frankly speaking, we all need to have a simple and frank speech sometime and our team do support friendship, help and conversation! Stay healthy!