Stress in our lives can actually lead us to live more compassionately, an odd fact that I will ask my students to occasionally consider next year. The kids in my classes are usually carrying significant loads of unease and angst as they make their way through teenagedom, and it’s my guess that they have never considered the positive aspects of this stress – never realized that their toil and trouble can make them more aware of their membership in the vast, worldwide family of fretful teens. If they could step back a bit from their personal worries and get a more distant perspective, they might be able to picture the millions of other anxious kids in the world, and thus might be able to breathe a sigh of reassurance in the understanding that they are not alone. Indeed, the feeling of being alone – of being the only kid in the world who feels weighed down by stress and disorder – is the real burden, and if I could help lift that burden off them – help them realize they have brother and sister teenage sufferers all over the world – perhaps I would be a slightly better teacher. My job is to teach English, true, but my students are people with powerful feelings, and they will learn literary terms and comma rules better if they know they’re not alone in sometimes feeling bulldozed by pressures beyond their control. They will still worry, but they will worry, I hope, with more compassion for their countless worrying comrades around the world.
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