How a Student’s Panic Attack Changed My Approach to Teaching


“My students were taking midterms when my phone erupted with urgent messages. “Student is having a panic attack,” texted a teaching assistant. I ran out of my office, down a flight of stairs and found the student—a pupil in my 350-person organic chemistry class—lying motionless on the ground outside the exam hall. “I can’t move my fingers, head, or legs,” she cried. “I don’t know what’s happening to me.” My mind raced as she slipped in and out of consciousness. I asked a bystander to call 911 and held the student’s hand, reassuring her that help was on the way. “Did my exam really trigger a panic attack?” I asked myself. “Why am I not prepared to deal with a situation like this?”

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