A student asks a question about a class. Here’s my answer….

A Student’s Dilemma

“I was excited about signing up for a class. But after the first session I’m anxious and doubtful that it’s really what I want. But if I drop it, I’m afraid I will feel even worse about myself.”

This question was posed in a newsletter I get from Paul Chubbuck who is a trauma-based therapist in Colorado. I don’t know how on earth I found Paul but I find him a decent human being. Mostly, I like him because he isn’t your typical “clinical” dude. This comes out of his blog and he’s asking folks to tackle the question. I feel like doing it because I have taken so many classes in my life.

I figure a few people might read this who don’t know who the heck I am. Amusingly, I am writing from the Amtrak station in Chicago where I have been delayed a day. Around me are passengers walking by, food vendors of all sorts, commuters traveling locally, and staff who work this busy station. Frequently I hear announcements about the various trains. Several people have approached me, panhandling. I was generous. I’ve been there.

Although sometimes I’m ambiguous about the “label,” I decided I’m okay calling myself a psychiatric survivor. I lived through many such psychiatric imprisonments and as far as I’m concerned it makes no sense to lock people up just because they’ve asked for help. All that delayed my getting better, sadly, and stole decades of my life, however, I did indeed get better, in spite of the “treatments” done to me (note the language here).

Because they kept imprisoning me (since when is “conditional voluntary” at all voluntary?), I started college many times, but was forced to stop, started, then stopped. What resulted was an accumulation of many more credits than I actually needed. I ended up transferring many times before earning my bachelor’s and my two year grad school program took me six years (and much joy).

So to answer the question. Why are you hesitant about the class? Maybe you need to break it down because I doubt it’s YOU, but something about the class, in other words, your objection to the class isn’t some disease, right?

Is it something about the topic that maybe isn’t interesting or exciting or challenging enough? Is it maybe too challenging or more advanced than you really wanted? Is the focus not what you were hoping for?

What about the instructor? Does he/she not inspire you the way you’d like? What about his/her personality? Sometimes we just don’t like our instructors and we don’t know why. Or sometimes the subject is exciting or interesting but the teacher isn’t very good or inexperienced at teaching. Some teachers show up late (grrr….) or are in other ways sloppy. Even little things like speaking too fast can be seriously annoying! Is the instructor not demanding enough or not challenging the students enough? Or not expecting enough from you? Or is the professor too demanding, giving too many assignments and expecting more from the students than you feel you can do?

Then, of course, there are the other students. I’ve dropped classes because the other students were just plain annoying to me….or wanted to! One time I was in a class where the other students were just too lazy for my liking. I debated over and over whether to stay in the class or transfer to another. I didn’t know if I’d get anything out of the class because the poor professor was frustrated (as was I). I stayed.

I left a class once (that wasn’t “required”) because the teacher was kinda obsessive and tended to repeat herself too much. It was a huge debate on my part because I knew the teacher was competent at the topic but her way of communicating was just terrible, to the point where we students were downright embarrassed. I think that semester, about half the class dropped out.

Sometimes, I dropped when it was “me.” I’m trying to recall what happened. I think once during summer semester because my psychiatrist screwed up my pills. (I should have fired him sooner.)

It could be the time of the class, the classroom (too hot, too cold…YES these things can make or break a class!) and even a noisy air conditioner.

So overall, I’d say break it down and figure out exactly what bugs you about the class. Write it all down if you have to. 99% of the time, it’s not YOU that’s the problem, so why get down on YOU for dropping? Being legitimately annoyed with a legitimate annoyance isn’t a disorder nor a moral failing. It’s HUMAN! So please, enjoy your humanity! Join the crowd of us annoyed folks. I’m sure you’re a kick-ass student, wherever you are, and whatever you decide to do will end up a-okay.

Love, Julie

1 thought on “A student asks a question about a class. Here’s my answer….”

  1. Some therapists are good, even helpful. I agree with Bruce Levine though that advanced degrees aren’t necessary and often unhelpful. Will Hall is my favorite counselor and he is uncertified.

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