As a specialist mentor I work with students at university. Not just any students, but those with additional challenges to their studies presented by a disability.
I meet with students each week, and I get to know them so well, I am with them on their journey every step of the way. It’s a unique and privileged position because I’m supporting them through all the difficulties, big or small, every week for the whole of the academic year.
The sorts of things students will talk to me about are varied, literally anything at all. This year one of my students had a house mate who was bouncing a ball most nights for a couple of weeks in their room in the early hours of the morning. My student was being woken up and then was struggling to fall back to sleep. I had noticed that my student was looking tired and was struggling to concentrate for our meetings so I asked what was going on and they told me about the house mate. My student has a mental health difficulty and is very anxious about talking to people so they were struggling with how to approach the house mate, struggling with the lack of quality sleep and it was all impacting on their ability to study. As their mentor I was able to listen to how my student was feeling, how desperate and close to tears they were just talking about it, and then we came up with a plan. We talked about how unfair it was, how inconsiderate, we talked about other members of the household and how they may also be affected and may want to talk to this house mate too, then we talked about talking to the others in the house, what sort of things we could say and how all members of the household may want to approach the housemate. We had two sessions that week so we could do some role play, to prepare my student for anything, we did breathing exercises to combat the anxiety and practised doing them when we were role playing so they could use them when the anxiety began to rise. We wrote a plan of what my student was going to say and when, how to keep the conversation from deteriorating into an argument, how not to be aggressive but to be assertive. We also talked about how we were going to manage the situation if the house mate didn’t stop with the ball, our next steps. My student arranged to have the conversation with the house mate alongside other members of the household, they used our plan and it worked beautifully. The house mate bouncing the ball was struggling with stress about assignments and hadn’t realised the bouncing ball was being heard by everyone else and disturbing them. Needless to say once they realised, they stopped bouncing the ball and my student was able to share some stress busting strategies that we had talked about in our sessions to help their house mate.
So the best day of the year? That’s the day when a strategy is successful, when I see my student go from being anxious, not sleeping and not studying well, when I witness the transformation of my student into a bright and smiling individual, who is now getting quality sleep, who has made a new friend, who has helped their house mates and is now the hero of the house.