What I Learned From One Student

Ric Shaull
Adjunct Math Professor

It was hard to pick only one student for this essay, but one definitely stood out.

DJ is a male army veteran, in his mid-to-late 20’s. He was recently discharged from the army after serving two tours in Afghanistan. DJ was in my morning MATH 106 class which met 4 days a week. DJ was very outgoing. I really liked him and appreciated his contributions to our class. At the beginning of the semester, DJ had lots of questions and said he didn’t like math. He also got easily frustrated when he couldn’t solve a problem. I spent as much time as I could in class helping him. We also worked on problems after class. DJ was usually the one student who would not only ask but answer questions. One morning he got really frustrated and stormed out early saying “I’m going to fail this class”. After this incident, I reached out to him and made sure he knew I was there to help in any way I could. We got together at the end of class and talked about life.

DJ revealed he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After finding out about his struggles, I researched PTSD to learn more. Now his challenges made sense. Maybe that’s why DJ was often so negative about his math abilities. Even though his attitude wasn’t always the greatest, DJ always sought help during group time and really seemed pleased when he got it right. Once he came up with a creative way to solve a problem which I shared with the class and gave him credit for it.

When finals approached, he was very nervous about passing. I assured him I would work with him on the specific problems he was having trouble with. We met after class and methodically worked through these problems for over an hour. DJ did better than he expected on the final and passed the course with a 2.5.

I really enjoyed working with DJ. He helped me understand our veteran students better, especially those who suffer from PTSD. Many of us may not be aware of the challenges these soldiers face when integrating back into ‘normal life’. A relationship with a teacher who is sensitive to their challenges will help them in this process.
(reference; What is PTSD-VA website)