Monday, April 24, 2023
This past semester I’ve been lucky that my classes don’t actually begin until noon at the earliest. I haven’t had this schedule since I was a second-semester senior in college with very few credits left to finish. But, as a result of this scheduling bonanza, I have been able to set up one on one meetings with 1L students before their classes begin in the morning. This is a both a good and bad thing. I have had one student who prefers only in-person meetings on Mondays when I may not start classes until 12:30 p.m., but my last class ends at 8:00 p.m. That student’s classes began at 9:30 a.m., so that makes a very long day for me. And this student didn’t always show up or communicate that they would be absent from our early meetings either before, during, or after our scheduled time. I would get into my office by 8;45 a.m. at the latest to be there and ready to meet and would usually end up getting some coffee when they didn’t show. I left a note on my door when I did that in case they were running late.
After two straight weeks of this non-communication or attendance, I was, understandably (I think) a bit pissed. I assumed I was being ghosted by a student who decided that Academic Support just wasn’t something they needed. I felt disrespected and devalued because my time was clearly not worth anything to them.
But then I remembered that when this student did come to meet with me, they were fragile. They had recently left the military and had some mental health issues-and above all, the military background combined with coming from the South meant that they were unbelievably polite when they sat across from me in my office. They used so many ma’ams that it made me feel old and I asked them (jokingly) to stop to which they replied, “my apologies ma’am.” We both laughed.
I also realized that this student was not someone who would ghost me, or anyone else, if they were okay, which I now doubted they were. It was a good reminder that a student can get lost. They can get lost in big classes, they can get lost in a big building, and they can get lost socially when other students are also stressed and hurried. Instead of being someone this student disrespected, I was someone this student had, in a way, trusted to see their absence and go looking for them.
I sent an email to the student expressing my concern at their absence without judgment or hints of being pissed. I got no answer. I took this information to our Dean of Students and asked her to check in. I was the only one who asked.
Sometimes I need to look for the red-flags and not just see the red.