Working as an Educator

The last couple of days have been extremely sad with the unfortunate massacre that occurred at Virginia Tech. This must be an incredibly difficult time for our fellow community members enrolled in the PhD programs at Virginia Tech.

As doctoral students are usually trained to become teachers at higer-education institutions, I’d like to take up this opportunity to discuss its implications for our community.

Do you think the event could have been prevented if the student’s professors were more persistent in seeking help? What would you have done?

At the same time, do you think there is substantial intervention available at higher-ed institutions? Do you think middle/high schools are granted much more proactive power and responsibilities towards behavioral/mental health problems, whereas higher-ed institutions much less so? Do you think the system should remain laid back as college students are grown-ups, or do you think we as educators should take on more responsibilities?

There is a fine line between the student’s privacy, freedom to speech, and behavioral/mental health problems. As future educators we will be confronted with this sensitive topic sooner or later. Perhaps most incidents won’t be as serious as this one (and hopefully never again!) but similar dilemmas will manifest themselves in other forms (e.g., discrimination, disruptive classroom behavior, problem team members, chronic complaints). What role do you see us play in resolving the problems? How much power and responsibilities do you take upon yourself? What principles do you use to guide your behavior and decision making?

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One Response

  1. Thank you for posting about this topic.

    There’s a lot more we don’t know about the shooter’s situation that what we do know. From what I’ve heard so far, it sounds like his teachers were reasonably persistent in seeking intervention.

    I know some schools have very different policies regarding students with mental health problems. I’ve heard of places that automatically send students home for the rest of the semester if there is any suicide risk. It’s not clear if that’s the policy VT had or not. [Even then, it’s hard to know where a student is most likely to get the mental health services they need.]

    The whole situation still feels too close to draw large many conclusions. There is one trivial observation I note from the press coverage I’ve seen.

    Compared to the generally negative coverage that’s occurred in the past about college professors, this tragedy has shown the positive side of student/professor bonds.

    The very best nature of our profession–professors literally willing to give their life for their students–was on display in this incredibly tragic crisis.

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