I was quite unnecessarily anxious about doing my first interview, despite having been doing telephone tutorials for 14 years. As a manic-depressive, I am often anxious about new experiences but I also get anxiety prior to regular intense occurrences, like when I give an online tutorial (which I have also been doing for years) or start a batch of marking. This anxiety expressed itself in many ways, for instance, rechecking recording equipment to make sure it works and revising and practising my questions repeatedly. On the day it showed in a mild depression during my morning walk, a feeling of nausea and fear, and pacing around the house. I am used to managing anxiety on a daily basis so lots of deep breathing, CBT and positive thoughts and no attempt to avoid or delay the inevitable.
What I experienced can be similar to what students experience when invited for a telephone tutorial, with the anxiety of not knowing the person calling or what to expect, and the anticipation of the event. Some will overcome this and welcome the opportunity to share their experiences and support needs with their tutor whilst others will find the barrier more difficult to climb. What is important, then, is that tutors work to establish positive relationships with their students at the beginning of the module and that they keep that door open for communication. I think regular communication from a tutor is vital in this process, especially early in the module, and communication is one of the things I will be exploring in my research on how students with mental health challenges can be supported to reach their potential. This includes proactive support that intervenes before crisis point so that students are supported when they are at their most vulnerable.
These issues also have implications for my research study in that I am inviting participants to have telephone interviews and not everyone will be comfortable with this, especially at the beginning of the module. I hope that as my students get to know me better, several will have the confidence to come forward and volunteer so that their voices will be heard.