Stop! Have you read my Disclaimer?
A bedraggled young man walked into my office, shut the door behind him, and asked if I had a minute. To listen. And I did. I listened as he related to me his experiences from the weekend before. He’d nearly overdosed on drugs. He had no family, lived alone. He was terrified and didn’t know what to do. He needed help.
A scared young woman flagged me down in the hall and asked if I had a minute. We went to my office; she asked to shut the door. I agreed. She told me a story of acquaintance rape. She was traumatized. I listened.
A 45-year-old woman sporting a black eye scheduled an appointment with me. We met in my office, where she told me a story about how she’d finally decided to kick out her meth-addicted boyfriend. He’d left but come back high, looking for cash for more drugs. He beat her up. She called the police. She had a restraining order. But she was still scared. I listened.
A man of about 50 came to my office. He wanted to talk about the class journal assignment on diversity. Before I read his entry, he wanted me to have some background information. He told me how he was having trouble adjusting. He’d previously been incarcerated at Pelican Bay. He’d been a member of the white supremacist gang there–he had the tats to prove it. He wanted someone to know and to listen to his explanation why: it was life or death. Now he was trying to learn tolerance and respect for diversity. I listened.
I had a military veteran suffering PTSD who I had to be very careful not to walk behind during class. And one day, he still had an episode right in the middle of class. Everyone was frightened. After, he didn’t want to come back to class. He came to my office and talked about his problem, his concerns. I listened.
In the past several years, I’ve had at least 5 homeless students in my office, wondering how they could possibly finish school when they weren’t even sure where they’d be sleeping each night. I listened.
Students call my office, and I listen. They can’t afford the textbook, their transportation plan fell through, they think maybe college isn’t right for them. They wonder if they have what it takes to make it to the end of the end of the semester–4 weeks, 3 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week. I listen.
Students come to my office to discuss their essays and end up telling me about family problems, relationship problems, money problems, car problems…life. I have a billion other things I need to be doing, but I listen.
It’s not actually written in my job description, but it’s a huge part of what I do. I listen. Because these are my students. Because sometimes they just need someone to listen. Because listening can make all the difference. And my job is to make a difference (it doesn’t say that in the description either).