There are easy terms and there are terms that make you earn a every penny. About three years ago I was in a car accident over the Summer and when the Fall term started I was quite aware that this would not be a normal term. I tried to work my schedule so that I could make a good impression on the job and meet the needs of my students. I was partially successful. And, this post offers me an opportunity to reflect on what I could have done better.
In most situations in life we do not get a change for a “do-over,” but it’s good to occasionally have the chance to think about the what if situation. Thinking about that Fall term I wish I had moved my afternoon class to earlier in the day, so that I would have had full use of my mind and body. That term was one of the toughest ever, as by about 4pm I was absolutely exhausted and could barely walk across campus. It was a rough. I was mildly embarrassed, but did announce to the class that I had a car accident and that I would not be my usual self. I stood by the podium must of the term and didn’t walk around and was not my usual peppy self. I found that most students were quite patient with me and I thank this for them. The morning class got the regular me, but the afternoon got the extremely tired, stiff version.
I have found that some students, though, have no patience for anything short of perfection from their instructor. And, this makes things interesting. You see, I have to accommodate students who are registered with the Resource Center for Students with a Disability, have notes from Health Services, are student athletes, and the like. And, I have no problem with flexibility, when it’s warranted. Some students are a little thick to understand that an instructor could have an illness or some other issue in their personal life. And, I learned that term to just roll with it and let it go. I also think that if I could go back I would have reminded the students more than once that I was struggling. I tried to act like things were fine. I’m not going to lie, though, the student evaluation that noted, “We don’t care if you were in a car accident–keep your personal life out of the classroom” really stung when I read it a few months later. I hope that person is never in a car accident or faces any physical hardship. This is really the only negative reaction that I recall.
My morning evaluation numbers were normal; however, the afternoon class numbers were slightly lower than the previous four times that I taught that class. Was the .7 difference because of my health? Maybe. What I do know is that term taxed my patience and I bet that some students felt the same way! My advice to other faculty–honesty. Let your students know if you are facing an unusual term. Most students will understand and offer you some compassion.