I spend a great deal of time in my developmental writing classes telling my students that they need to learn how to balance all of their responsibilities in a way that makes them pleased with their lives but that they shouldn’t make me accomodate the many, sometimes conflicting priorities in their lives. If they take my class, they have to do the work or take the consequences – a lower grade – for their failure to do so. I like that approach in my classes because it teaches, I hope, that we all have to make choices sometimes and that sometimes those choices cause us to be less then pleased with our work and the choices themselves.
Yesterday, I was in a similar situation when, because of a couple of serious crises at work, I didn’t get a stack of papers graded. At first, I felt very guilty – I seem to feel guilty a lot – but then I thought, perhaps this is a chance to share in some of my students’ experiences. So I took aside time in my evening class and explained to them, very candidly, why their papers were graded. I told them that I’d chosen to help look for a missing colleague – literally, she’s gone missing – and to help a student who thought she was pregnant and was having stomach paints, rather than grade their papers. They showed great understanding.
Then, we had a wonderful discussion about all the priorities and responsibilities we juggle in our lives and how those priorities line up with our goals, both short-term and long-term.
At the end of class, we left, or at least I did, feeling like we had shared a geniune moment of experiencing life together. That may have been the best thing I’ve taught all year – teachers struggle, too, and we can help one another through these moments with understanding and openness. A good night’s work.