Lost all sympathy(8 Posts)
I'm 19 weeks PG & have had a busy term. I've had to work systematically in the pockets of time outside morning sickness to get papers finished. The main hit has been to my responsiveness to student emails, especially the ones where they want moral support due to mental health issues.
I usually try to be warm & sympathetic because it doesn't really take any more time, & it's a good thing to do. But my tolerance has all gone. Should I put it down to self-preservation or should I calm down & reprioritise? Rationally I know many of them are having a really difficult time and they are just looking for signals that the department is human. Am I becoming part of the toxic environment, or are they just wasting my time & what remains of my energy with the long tail of excuses & special pleading? All the mark adjustments are made by a special board, so why do they need me to know?
IMO it depends. Is it your responsibility in any way? If not, I'd just send a really quick 'I sympathise and recommend you speak to x' generic email to all of them.
If it is then I think you need to do it TBH.
I get how you feel but conflating mental health issues with excuses sounds pretty awful, really.
Agree with. LRD. Let your special circs board deal with the impact on marks and politely redirect the student somewhere concrete (like where to get the special circs form). This type of thing is a form of emotional labour that is disproportionately dumped on female academics more than male. Get in the habit of redirecting now as you're also likely to have even less headspace and energy to deal with it once you're back from mat leave with a baby of your own to think about
(I hate doing pastoral support of students as I'm completely unqualified and unsupported in offering it, so there's a significant chance of making things worse if someone has serious problems. Not all universities require it of academic staff, thankfully!)
I can't really work out quite what the problem is here. You both say that it doesn't take any longer to send a sympathetic email, and also that they're wasting their time. Is it just that because you're feeling crappy you don't feel like being nice? If so - and it's actually not taking you any longer - just send nice emails; you don't have to be sincere - they can't see you - and, much as I'm sorry that you're feeling so ill at the moment, sending cold emails is a) unlikely to make you feel better b) kind of nasty - it's not their fault that you're unwell.
All of this is predicated on this - I usually try to be warm & sympathetic because it doesn't really take any more time - being true. If this is taking up time that you aren't obligated to spend then that's different.
Agree with Lisa and others above - send back a canned response and point them towards whoever can support them best with their issue.
Nausea does pass - but something soon replaces it in my experience (crappy back, lack of sleep, school run and childcare nightmare, etc to name a few).
This new brand of students to seem needier though, and there is no escaping their appetite for sharing some pretty graphic details about their life / health. Not sure why they think it is appropriate, I would never have disclosed so much to a lecturer...
Thank you. I think I worded the OP a little badly and am sorry. I don't imagine anyone has particularly noticed, but I've noticed that I'm not sending out signals that I'm approachable.
I'm not particularly unwell right now, but behind. My usual instinctive rush of wanting to help has gone, and usually guilt and anxiety are quite useful in motivating me to attend to admin & so on, but have lost those instincts too.
It isn't that I'm thinking of happier things (I'm not) - but am very emotionally flat and am having to do it all by numbers, remembering what the policy is and what I could get in trouble for not doing. On the bright side I have a stronger sense that I need to get my papers finished, so am very motivated to write. My current contract will be ending during maternity leave which is very focusing.
Separately, the rates of ill health among students are just extraordinarily high. At times I feel a little manipulated by what is probably a generational difference in openness and honesty. I do think that young students' social experience is generally difficult these days and that they have to be much more resilient than my generation, and I don't envy them at all.
but am very emotionally flat and am having to do it all by numbers, remembering what the policy is and what I could get in trouble for not doing
Ah, I see. I've (for different reasons) been there. That's where I think the fact that these are emails and not face-to-face meetings is a blessing. You can send nice, warm emails without feeling warm and nice. If they're a little by-the-numbers that's ok, and don't beat yourself up for it: offering sympathy by email is almost inevitably stilted, so I think they'll notice far less than you imagine.
I'm normally quite an upbeat, cheery person, and the students respond well to that. When I had a bad bout of depression a few years ago it was very hard to keep that up, but I essentially 'faked it until I made it' and was surprised (and a little alarmed!) and how little anyone seemed to notice.
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