I hold office hours so students can meet with me if they have questions or concerns about class or want help with writing in other courses. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I help a student resolve a writing problem and he or she leaves the room with the relief that the issue is over. What happens when a student comes to me with a problem much greater than something I can address in my small workspace? I worry about this. I have faced this.
I had a student make a appointment to see me so that I could show her how to post assignments to the course's online site, and how to edit documents on her laptop. When she came in, a flood of emotions poured out of her and it was obvious that she had much larger concerns than what she had initially come to address. I listened, we talked, and then I picked up the phone. I called our school's counseling department to see what resources they could offer someone I was not equipped to help. As she made an appointment with a counselor, I looked up online resources that our school posts for reference. I handed her a few printed pages from a community resources guide and offered final words of comfort before she left.
After she left, I felt sick with worry; however, two days later, the same student returned and looked radiant in her relief. She was on a path to help, and she wanted to let me know that she was okay.
I don't think I did anything spectacular to help her; I simply listened and recognized that her need was greater than what I could address. I am thankful that our school's counseling department is willing to meet with students to give them resources that are non-academic in nature. If you are in a helping profession, like I am as an instructor, please listen to people around you who need help. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and others about what assistance you can provide. Finally, take the time to find the proper services if you can.