This is a very serious issue and I hope for her sake she is not cutting herself.
I would address it head on and ask her to explain it to you in great detail.
If it really is “a long story” then tell her you are “all ears”.
Then I would watch her and listen very carefully to her with discerning ears.
Remember, it is possible that she really had a freaky accident or she has a psycho cat with monster claws, or she scratched herself on the rake while gardening. Give her the benefit of the doubt and then wait and see.
However, if she really is hurting herself then there will be other problems that will start to present themselves. If you really believe she is hurting herself then you should express your concern to her directly. I am certainly not a mental health care professional, but if she were cutting herself I would consider it a cry for help. This is a common problem in high school and very alarming to see. Since she is an adult student, I assume she lives independently and there is no parent to contact.
You might want to call a suicide prevention hotline, or a mental health professional and ask them what they would recommend you do as a concerned friend.
Consider what is going on in her life and whether there is something going on with this student that you don’t know about.
If everything else in her life seems fine then consider how you might be helpful and supportive to her.
Sometimes a little bit of kindness and compassion can go a long way to help someone who is hurting.
As a teacher, you walk a fine line between respecting her privacy and extending appropriate support to a troubled student.
Wait and see, it might be nothing. I hope for her sake that it is nothing.
But if it is a serious problem you will have professional advice on what to do.
I absolutely agree with you, we are not psycho therapists. We are not trained or qualified “to do” anything but teach music.
I am not suggesting she meddle in her students’ personal problems.
There are boundaries between a teacher and a student that are to be respected.
However if the student is “cutting” herself and continues to do so, then she needs to seek professional advice from someone who is qualified to give it. I am not suggesting the teacher presume to offer her “treatment”.
I was simply trying to offer a helpful suggestion to a teacher who was feeling concerned about the well being of a student.
I would not be able to ignore this serious problem if it continued. I am hoping that this student is not hurting herself and that there is some other explanation for the marks on her arm.
Life can be difficult at times and students can have problems that interfere with their harp lessons.
In 25 years of teaching I have witnessed students having personal issues in their lessons due a myriad of problems. Sometimes it is flunking out of school, an accident, a really bad break-up, an illness, a divorce, a death in the family etc.
I am always interested in the well being of my students and offer a supportive ear if they ask for it. Yes we are certainly qualified to teach the harp to our students, but hopefully there is a bit of kindness and support gracefully delivered in the lesson.
I’d be really, really careful with contacting parents etc, because then you sort of ‘betray’ the person’s trust. If I were you, I’d try to approach her before doing anything, unless you’ve got very good reasons to think she’s planning to kill herself.
(I’m not yet qualified to advise anything on this matter, so take this as information and judge it for yourself…)
Self-harm alone is rarely a reason to be worried about someone’s well being. It is a phase that lots of teenagers pass and most get out of it without any help. Self-harm can be many things – a cry for help but also an ‘experiment’ that got out of control, etc. etc.
-I’d be really, really careful with contacting parents etc, because then you sort of ‘betray’ the person’s trust-
What do you think it is going to look like if this student really injures or kills herself and the parents and authorities find out that the teacher knew about this and didn’t tell anyone?
Thank you for posting your experienced professional opinion on this delicate issue.
It is a relief to hear the wisdom of your thoughtful and straight-forward remarks.
For those who have seen a few senseless tragedies, it is hard not to speak up when there is an opportunity to be helpful in an appropriate way.
Thank you for speaking with such clarity.
That’s why I said, try discuss it with the student before doing anything. If there’s reason to suspect that the student is going to try to kill herself, of course you should contact someone, but self harm alone is – according to what I’ve learned – not a reason to worry about suicide.
It’s not only about potentially losing a student.(which, to me, indeed should never be a reason not to contact someone).
Unfortunately, I think you really can’t do anything except to say something simple like get whatever help you need. It is beyond our scope. It may be a resolved problem, the student may already be in treatment, it can mean anything. People are strangely touchy about boundaries and what they expect from us. If there is already a counseling aspect to the lessons, then it is perhaps approachable. We can’t do interventions, much as we might like to.
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