Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Dealing with the Disturbed
Where I work teaching creative writing, the school is mostly business, science, and engineering students. I like these students because they enjoy using another part of their brains and because they don't know that to be a writer you are supposed to be disturbed. They have not bought into the romantic myth. Still, I do get maybe a student every semester who has emotional problems. I do tell my class I am not a therapist, not trained to deal with emotional problems. I tell them that writing about their struggles could get the emotions out, or could just get them more stirred up. When I feel it appropriate I will make comments to the effect, "If this story is true, I feel for you and am sorry you went through it." I have walked students over a number of times to the counseling office and stayed until they saw someone. I have asked students, out in the hall if possible, "Are you OK?", and they have appreciated it. Some female students will write venting poems, usually about a failed romance, and come to my office during office hours and read them. I keep the door open and have my desk between myself and students. The poems aren't very good, but they are a start, and it seems to calm them down a bit. At other universities I've had more students who believe they are artists because they are disturbed. After one class, a gay male poet and a gay female student got into a short fist fight before I broke it up. He was a famous San Francisco renaissance poet visiting the class. That was pretty exciting.