How do I start a conversation?

How do I start a conversation?

Take time to gauge the temperament of the class. If you notice any unusual behavior by a particular student in the classroom, observe the student for some time to see if the behavior prolongs or if it is just a passing cloud. Talk to a trusted colleague to know if this behavior is evident in other classes as well. It is important to use your discretion when talking to co-workers. The intention is to help the student, not start a gossip chain.

If you notice that the behavior lasts for longer than usual, invite the student for a private chat and:

  • Open the conversation by asking general questions—"How are you doing today?" "I’ve noticed you seem a bit preoccupied these days," etc.

  • Refrain from labeling the student, especially using diagnostic terms (for example, "You seem depressed").

  • Listen. Whatever the student shares with you, treat it with utmost confidentiality. If your college policy requires you to share the information with a counselor or higher authority, explain to the student why, with whom, and how the information will be shared. Avoid judging or blaming the student.

In some cases, the student may be in denial or may not open up to you at all. In such situations, leave them alone and quietly observe them for a few more weeks, before approaching again. Remember, a student can never be coerced into confiding their problem. A good thumb rule is to attempt twice and if the second attempt fails, notify the campus counselor and let them decide on the best approach.

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