A strong aspect of the educational experience at Presentation is the willingness to discuss topics and issues that may be controversial or intense. The open dialogue allows for a richer learning experience for students and teachers alike.
All students have different perspectives based on their life experiences. When all students can feel comfortable sharing their experiences, everyone learns from one another.
That being said, certain topics may be triggering to certain students, and it is important that we as a school improve on providing trigger warnings to protect and respect our students’ well-being, taking into consideration their mental health and prioritizing their safety and comfortability.
Far too often, students have had to risk their mental health and inhibit their educational experience because they were not prepared for certain discussions and assignments that came up in class.
The lack of trigger warnings provided in classes creates an unsafe environment where students are unable to truly involve themselves in the dialogue. An unsafe learning environment inhibits education and leaves students susceptible to extreme anxiety and panic attacks.
When students must prioritize their own well-being in class, they can only concentrate on their mental health and it is impossible to let that tension go and feel relaxed in class.
Every student should walk into every class and feel safe and comfortable in the environment.
There are a few ways teachers can achieve this implementation of trigger warnings in classes.
First, in departments and classes that deal with more sensitive issues (i.e. psychology, religious studies classes, English classes), it would be helpful if department heads and teachers could review the curriculum and highlight the topics that may have strong triggering themes (i.e. intense violence, mental illness conditions/suicide, etc.).
Once these topics are highlighted, teachers can then provide warnings for students prior to classes spent discussing them. Sometimes, just providing a warning (i.e. requiring a permission slip for movies with sensitive topics, noting the discussion topics in the unit calendar, informing students the class before, etc.) allows students to prepare and come to class ready to deal with said topic.
However, if a student does need to opt out of a specific class, it would also be helpful for teachers to have alternate assignments prepared so that students can still learn the necessary information without risking their mental health.
In the rare instance that the sensitive topic is necessary and there is absolutely no equal alternative, opening up dialogue with students and having one-on-one meetings with a student who may be triggered by the subject and having an open discussion ensures that the student feels safe with that adult in the room.
The simple addition of more communication and prior warnings creates an open and safe environment.
Those who oppose the wide implementation of trigger warnings could argue that students may abuse this openness and take advantage of the warnings to get out of certain classes and assignments.
I would argue that Presentation students are taught to be mature and honest. In general, a relationship of mutual respect exists within teachers and students and it seems only fair that with the high expectations that exist here, students deserve a basic amount of trust in return.
A basic amount of trust that believes that the Presentation community would consider the mental health and overall well-being of the entire population of students more important than the minor possibility that a few students might attempt to abuse this policy.
Creating a safe and comfortable environment for all students to learn in allows for an even richer learning experience where students are able to fully immerse themselves in the discussion without putting their well-being at risk.
Presentation allows students a deep education by confronting sensitive topics, but this education can further be fostered by releasing the stress on students by prioritizing the well-being of all students.