If the stressors could speak

Yesterday, I mentioned how learners experience a second level of stress when nothing changes in response to their existing anxieties. This morning I had fun imagining what the unresponsive systems would say as comebacks to my expectation that they should alleviate the learners' stress. Here's some retorts to my compassion for stressed-out learners:
  • Bully for you. If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
  • Do I look like a bank? I cannot give this away, lower the price and pretend that content wants to be free!
  • Do I look like a therapist? I cannot listen to every whining wimp with crippling insecurities that weaken their resolve, endurance and fortitude.
  • This is not kindergarten. We cannot pay attention to every cry baby throwing tantrums to get attention.
  • You think I'm not stressed out of my gourd too? You don't see me looking for any easy out, making excuses or shying away from the challenge.
  • If we start accommodating every snivel-nosed stress case, will lose our competitive edge, brand equity and market share.
  • Business is war. It's not supposed to be conducted in an atmosphere of meditative repose, serene resourcefulness and quiet responsiveness.
These are examples of defensive rationalizations which justify insensitivity, unresponsiveness and perpetuation of anti-learning ecologies. These fixed mentalities cannot learn from what they are being shown. For them, the learning already happened when they made up their minds to endure stress at all cost. That cost is paid in very many ways.


  1. On the one hand, I agree that there needs to be a way to de-stress the learning environment. I have students that try so hard, I am afraid they are going to have a nervous breakdown (some in fact have had chronic stomach ailments, have been near tears if they just can't get a concept). On the other hand, I have students that are downright rude and disrespectful of the instructor and what a course is trying to accomplish. Many times the content and objectives are out of the control of the instructor, yet the student seems to think the instructor can and should "change" things to accommodate that one student. As a result, an instructor must walk a fine line between being supportive enough to talk the learner "off the cliff" of stress, yet stern enough to motivate those that don't want to learn or are trying to get out of doing any kind of work.

  2. Virginia: Thanks for your insightful, two-sided comment here. I agree with the need to walk a fine line when we are pulling students "back from the brink".

    In the twelve years I taught college, I often got the impression that I was a "large animal veterinarian employed in a slaughterhouse". I also saw countless examples of stress-induced illnesses, acting out frustrations and loss of mental acuity. I was doing my utmost to lower student stress with open book, short-essay tests, flexible deadlines, extra credit assignments, etc. Meanwhile I was hearing horror stories from my students about their other workload, deadlines, penalties and indifferent instructors. It did not come across as whining to me ( I have a very low tolerance for lame excuses). These students demonstrated a love of learning and commitment to get the most out of their time in college.

    What you say about faculty becoming the target of disrespect is symptom (in my view) of our becoming over-responsible for the students. The stressors are on and off campus, people and policies, controllable and set-in-cement. The overall ecology appears "anti-learning" to me, when considering stress, effects, but also many other variables I'll explore in the coming weeks.