I got up early this morning, as I usually do when the kids are going to school. Once they got off, I ran a couple of errands, then came back home and checked my email. My course evaluations had come through, and I went to read them.
I only had a few students who actually completed them. They seemed split about the kind of teacher I was--kind, caring, late, sick, absent. Honestly, I couldn't argue with any of their scoring. The only thing that irked me, as per usual, was one of the responses.
This fibro thing has kicked my ass.
I've never been one of those people who is so neurotic that she pushes through everything to a workaholic-like ending. One of my good friends is like that and would work tirelessly, sixty to eighty hours a week. My brother is also like that, working nearly twelve hour days six days a week. He makes a good living but, in my opinion, doesn't have enough time to enjoy it. Finding balance is hard, and it's something I have always struggled with.
One of my evaluations carried on and on about my absences this semester, going as far as to say that I cancelled literally half the classes this semester, which is a gross exaggeration. The person went on to complain about getting to take a test home to do it instead of in class. I had the class vote that day if they would like to take it home and did make the comment I had a migraine. The student in question was practically jumping up and down with excitement at the opportunity. I guess there was a change in perspective somewhere between finding out it could be a take home test and the end of the semester.
Having taught undergraduate courses for ten years now, I've come to expect the random irrelevant, thoughtless, or even cruel comment made. Some people see the opportunity for anonymity and grab it like a brass ring, hanging on and sticking it to the instructor for all they're worth. I know I've been guilty myself of doing that exact thing. This particular student made it known in class, in front of her peers, how she felt about me and my teaching. She remains anonymous to the college, but not to me.
Realistically and theoretically, work should be separate from personal issues. I wish that could be the case for me. I found myself during the last week of school having to bite my tongue with this particular student, holding back the information about why I had missed so much class. I kept telling myself that the reason is irrelevant; I had to maintain professional integrity and not disclose personal information that would help my students to understand. In the end, I know it was the right thing to do, although my reaction to this student's perspective is irritation and anger. Did I want to miss that much? Hell no. It wasn't like I was bronzing myself at the beach.
Here's what I wanted to say to her: I'm a human being, just like you. Just like you, I have surprises that pop up in my life and yank me down. This has been a huge one. Trust me, I'd rather be teaching than hanging my head in a toilet or being unable to move due to pain. I've been kind and understanding with you; I've made an effort to help you and explained material thoroughly; I've listened to your perspective on different issues in this course. How is it that you aren't able to see mine?
I think perspectives, when people are aware, function as a type of filter of information. We all have our own personal experiences that create a mesh with which we filter other people's beliefs and experiences through. Some of us are, whether through temperament or practice, better able to recognize that we have a filter and to work with it. Others can't. My husband has this friend back home who was raised in a typical WASP-like environment. The guy can't see or imagine any perspective past his own. Everything he experiences gets stuck in his filter. He can't see past his own perspective to recognize that others have valid arguments to bring to the table. The only arguments that matter to him are his own. This student reminds me of my husband's friend in the sense that there's a lack of recognition of a filter. There's only recognition of one person's needs and perspectives--the student's.
Being who I am makes it hard for me to let this go and be okay with it. It was a first semester, I was incredibly sick, and it is what it is. But hopefully I will be able to let some of it settle. I know what I'm capable of and I know what I actually did. And I know the semester is over. I've learned from it and am adjusting to it. And that's okay.