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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Students' lives...

I had another long talk with the woman I spoke with earlier in the semester, one of the two "adult" women in today's 101. She's going through a terrible divorce, and she revealed more of the circumstances to me today: it's the kind of situation that would be unbelievable if it weren't actually happening. I've stepped out of my role as her professor in my desire to help her: I have sent a message about her to a lawyer I dated briefly ages ago. I don't know what, if anything, will come of that--and I feel abashed for having transgressed on a couple of boundaries here (the teacher-student boundary, the ex-date boundary, even the lawyer/private person boundary)--but I just can't bear that this woman who is so tremulous and yet so tenacious is going through the hell she's in, and trying to be a student on top of it all.

This happens a lot here. I suppose it happens a lot at every campus, but there's something about the population at a community college that I believe brings with it a lot more serious life difficulties. I've had students who were living in cars, in rehab, shifting from couch to couch among their friends' families, disowned by parents, trying to stay out of jail, returning to life after having been in jail ... I could go on. And they're worried about getting their assignments in on time, or figuring out my zillions of over-written, over-explained handouts.

I have a hard time articulating how I feel about all this. What hits me most powerfully at the moment is that school matters so profoundly to so many of them. I tend to lose sight of that because of the numbers of students who don't seem to give even the tiniest of shits about the educational process, those who flaunt their truculent, arrogant ignorance and resent us for trying to break through it to actually activate their minds. But there are many, many students here who hold on to school as the only lifeline they have, as Ariadne's thread, the only way to escape the maze and the monster--all the hell in their lives--at the center of that maze. I am humbled, and I am reminded, repeatedly, of how privileged I am, how privileged I have been. This education, even just these two years, is, for them, almost literally the difference between life and death. I am speechless in the face of that significance. It almost frightens me, to know that I have a part in how their lives turn out. A small part, I grant you, but to them it seems like all the money is on this one roll of the dice. It is daunting.

Class was OK today. A number of the students hadn't done the reading, so I did what I did with yesterday's class--and they responded about like yesterday's students did. In fact, I'd say yesterday's class went better--I think partly because the students yesterday were so relieved to have the chance to loosen up, whereas the students in today's class are used to it, and felt a little shy not having worked through ideas in their groups first. But it still ended up being a great conversation.

I am, however, very worried about the lack of work. I'm missing lots of key assignments from lots of students, and it worries me. I'm trying to convey that without scaring them into silence and freezing up the chemistry, but it's getting to the point where I am going to have to let them know, in no uncertain terms, how deep a hole they're digging for themselves.


Shifting gears, one of the plagiarists from the poetry class--the one who confessed to having cheated because she was overwhelmed with her course load--has decided to drop my class. I told her that she had probably taken on too much and might have to consider her priorities, and--she reports--after consultation with her parents, she's decided to focus on the science classes that she needs in order to apply to the nursing program at one of the nearby colleges. Fair enough.

I'm feeling a little edgy right now because I haven't done my usual organize and sort prior to leaving the office--but I have to come in tomorrow anyway, so I figure I might as well leave everything where it is until I finish up. I got one promotion application read and the letter drafted; Paul's is next up (I started on it before class but didn't get very far), and then one more. I should also review all the others if I can, just to provide additional feedback to the P&B mentors, but the main thing is to get to the ones I am "responsible" for. I'm worried about one of them: there are still some important changes that need to be made, and they'll require her to renumber everything, which is a snorting pain in the ass, especially when we have so little time left in which to get them nailed down. I hope I meet with her tomorrow, but I'm still waiting to get her response to my e-mail about that.

And since I do have to be here tomorrow and am not sure how long I'll have to stay, I'm going to wrap this up. I might post tomorrow, if anything interesting pops into my head to relate. Otherwise, o my faithful readers, look for a post on Monday--and bon weekend to y'all.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of the more moving entries you e shared, Tonia. And what makes it so is the delicate balancing act between self disclosure and your quite empathic profiles of students who make it worthwhile or else confirm the need to push and send a strong message. Though I am not you, I finding echoes in my own self fashioning.

    Thank you. BF