In this episode of The Dialog Podcast, we talk about stress that students have going back to school after the strike by college faculty.
We spoke with Tenniel Rock, manager of counselling and student well-being at George Brown College and Tiffany White, the director of education for the Student Association of George Brown College.
Hosted and produced by Manseeb Khan.
Manseeb Khan: Hey what’s going on everyone? Manseeb Khan from The Dialog podcast, a podcast where we dive into issues that affect you in the GBC community and a place where I hope to introduce to you to the super talented and downright incredible people that not only go here but also work here.
So if you haven’t heard school is back in session, I know for me it’s been a very stressful strike, my life has practically been put on hold and I’m sure a lot of you listening might feel the same way. So I sat down with both Tiffany White the Student Association director of education and Tenniel Rock, the manager of counselling and student wellbeing from Peerconnect, to see what the school has put in place to help fellow students like me deal with this extra amount of stress because of the strike.
MK: Alright we are recording, today we are with Tiffany White who is the director of education of the Student Association. Tiffany thank you so much for dropping by.
Tiffany White: Anytime, this is awesome.
MK: I know you have had a very busy day, so thank you for taking time out of your hectic schedule.
MK: So how are you feeling? How’s everything going?
TW: Stressed. At the end of the day I’m still a student, and I got my travel plans, I got my own plans because it’s my last year school. I’m trying to graduate, I’m trying buy a house and I’m trying to leave Toronto all that is being put on hold. So I feel the stress, I feel the drama from the student side but then again 22,000 other students who are like ‘hey we need answers and we need them now’. So I’m like I feel you, and right now it’s been a scramble to get as many meeting with the college as possible. It’s been a scramble to get them to actually acknowledge that we exist, we do have power, we have a lot of power so they are finally starting to recognize that and it’s just now trying to get them to also respect that.
MK: So I guess a common theme has been that this strike stress has been 10x-ing everyone’s regular stress, because everyone is freaking out over exams and assignments anyway, but now that we have this whole new strike stress going on. What is the SA doing to help remedy the stress that the students are dealing with?
TW: What we’re doing as an executive and as a board of directors is we’re communicating with college. We’re saying “no what they are doing was not okay.” They were making decisions without consulting students, they were making decisions without acknowledging the fact that these decisions also impact the same facility that are on strike. So I’m like you can’t just go in and say “hey I’m going to make a decision to go and extend the semester by a week.” As one person who put it, students have not just have an academic calendar but they also have a life calendar. You can’t just put out 500,000 students out and say ‘no. You know what? You are going to have to rearrange your life to accommodate our schedules.’ That’s not okay.
MK: That beautifully transitions to my next question, I guess could you talk about what would you like to see?
TW: They haven’t talked about it with us, but some of the students were asking us about it. So I think maybe it’s other colleges are looking at, so there might be online supplementation, maybe they can post lectures through Blackboard. I don’t know how they are going do it but that’s some ideas that we have taken to the college and said these are some of the ways you could support students.
Another really great thing that they are focusing on now is looking at the accommodations and accessibility needs of students. So for those are ASL or those who have any kind of issues where they need to write in a specific location for a test, those will all be taken into account and they will be about to utilize those services, which is great.
So we made a lot of really great strides, not everything we want but I mean that’s part of the negotiation process, as an executive it’s our first strike, we never experienced this before so it’s always a learning process for us. We are constantly learning as we go, in how we communicate and how we negotiate and how we handle this, it’s a lot more stress then it seems, so we have kept it together so far the hope is that we can keep going.
MK: Thank you for clarifying everything, because everything is up in the air and you definitely help put in focus a lot of core issues and core things, that us students would have probably never even thought of. So thanks for looking out for us and thanks for stopping by this was a pleasure.
MK: That was Tiffany White the director of education. The best way to contact her would through email and her email is email@example.com, next up we have Tenniel Rock form Peerconnect.
Manseeb Khan: What is Peerconnect putting in place to deal with student stress and all this angst that students are coming with?
Tenniel Rock: One of the things I think will be very helpful for students coming back, is if you haven’t been to our awesome workshops on stress management, mindfulness, number one: organizing. All the workshops that we do on how to prioritize, I think that’s going to be the biggest thing for folks coming back. We’re human beings and I think the reality is that when there isn’t a deadline that’s right in front of your face, something things start to get off of the table and the next thing you know, we’re back from the strike and you’ve got a ton of stuff that you were meant to look at, you had good intentions and you didn’t get to it, and what you need is a plan.
I think the most impotent thing that I want to say students is that there is a lot of things that are going to stress you out when you cannot control them. We know that’s the number one stressor. When you don’t know what’s going happen that’s a stressor. What you can control is your plan. So make sure that, if you are maybe going to work with a friend, you and your friend are generally “ah I’m so upset, I’m so stressed” okay I get that, I think it’s important to vent with a friend, connect with a friend, but why not in a moment after that venting why not take a moment to say “you know what, can we sit down actually plan for how we are going manage all this work?”
If you are in a course with a friend, you guys can sort of be like “okay, when are we going study? When are we going to have time to chill? How are we going manage this?” That’s actually something I think you can be doing right now and if you need skills on that, that’s a perfect time to go to Peerconnect and either work with somebody one-on-one or head to one of these workshops to give you a bit of sense on how to do something like that.
MK: So you’re recommending that students take all the anger and angst and channel it into doing work. So I guess that what Peerconnect is doing? So they are telling student if you need help with anything, come in, sit down with us organize everything, plan everything out. Destress, meditate, yoga all that stuff.
TR: All of those things, and it’s really helpful because it’s looking at three aspects of how students function. So the three pillars, live well, work well, study well. So if you think about students in a post-strike situation you’ll probably need a little of all three. So utilize this service to sort of figure out those skills on how do you de-stress, like don’t us tell you how you do that, we are just creating an opportunity for you to reflect on what de-stressing looks like for you.
Then the study well stuff is where come up with some of those skills, to help people figure out how do you plan? How do you prioritize? That’s the number one stressor. Sometimes people have a plan but it’s a list of 80 things, so great now I’m looking at a list of 80 things and I’m more stressed now. So what do you with that list? How to do start prioritizing urgent and important, important and not urgent?
Those are some of the things you’ll get from a workshop or even meeting with a one-on-one coach. Hey if you are not a workshop person, no problem that’s the beauty of being able to meet with somebody one-on-one on your own time schedule, to be able to get some of that information on a one-on-one basis. I always want students to know about that service, that’s for everybody. And like I say it’s at St James, it’s at Casa Loma, it’s at Ryerson, and it’s at Waterfront, you’re close one of those places.
MK: So if students have questions or concerns, what would be the best way to contact Peerconnect? Do we walk in? Can we tweet you? Can I Snapchat you a problem?
TR: I think the best way is to walk in, but we know people are busy and I know that they so don’t have time for that. So our social media game is going. So we have Facebook, we have a YouTube channel with lots of really great videos that are already up there on a lot of the stuff that I described, so if you don’t want to go anywhere no problem just got to our YouTube channel. We also have a website for Peerconnect, so those are some of the places that I would suggest that people check out. All this stuff is directly linked to the George Brown College site, so you can just go on the George Brown College site, search Peerconnect and everything I’m describing will come up, so it’s really simple and easy to get that information.
MK: Well thank you so much, I feel de-stressed already.
TR: Yeah I haven’t even done anything, invite me back!
MK: For sure I will, alright thank you so much and that was Peerconnect.
MK: Alright and that’s the end of the podcast. Thanks for tuning in if you have any episode ideas, or if you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to chat, but if you don’t do email that’s no worries, it’s 2017 not many people do, you can reach us on social media at The Dialog on all major platforms and you can find all of our episodes on our website at dialognews.ca or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for tuning in and see you on the next one.