My classes yesterday were a bust. I am there all pumped up and ready to go and in one class maybe two thirds show up and in the other, the 3 o’clock, maybe half. I don’t know the exact number because I decided not to take roll. I am lousy at taking roll anyway.
The last two weeks have not been good. Full of midterms. Also I have received more emails saying, I am sick, than I can recollect having received in recent memory. You never know of course, the students could be yanking your chain. But the way these emails are written suggest either that students can’t write or are the product of a fevered delirium.
Other evidence suggests something nasty is going around. A number of my fellow teachers have something or recently had something. One student came to my office to catch up on what she had been missing. She had mono last quarter, she said, and it had come back. If she could she said she would cut out her tonsils. They hurt so bad and keep getting re-infected. I made her sit clear on the opposite of the room and said, did she have to cough, do so away from me even though she said mono is not airborne.
Another reported that he lives in a house with 9 people and that 3 of them had pneumonia. He was pretty worried about getting that, though I don’t think pneumonia is airborne either (though what do I know). One reported the wait for help at the student health center was two to three hours. And one couldn’t show up because she had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics she had been taking for two weeks. Her whole body was covered with a nasty rash, she said.
Neville Sanford says, college is a developmental stage. Students must be challenged, so they can stretch themselves, but if the challenge is too great they will feel defeated and cease to move forward. So here I am all upset that maybe what I have asked them to read about and write on is too great a challenge, and then I realize that the challenge of my class may not be the problem at all. Maybe they haven’t had the energy to engage my challenge because of all the other challenges they are facing. Hell my class is just a drop in the bucket in the ocean of student malaise.
So part of the developmental challenge of college involves basic stuff like eating every now and then and getting some sleep (preferably not in my class) and not getting so drunk so constantly that you screw up your immune system. This involves developing “self-regulation” itself a central part of autonomy and that is, of course, the responsibility of the student. Still, while the sickness seems a bit over the top at the moment, students at the end of each quarter are hacking, spitting, and snorting up a storm as finals loom on the horizon.
I have long wondered about an educational system that tends to make students sick.