Emotions have been a roller coaster since last thursday. That would be when students in two of my courses (same course, two sections) turned in journals they have been keeping since the first week of class.
The first journal entry was a 'getting to know you' piece, where they were asked to share what they feel comfortable sharing about themselves personally. The remaining 6 journal entries corresponded to self-assessment exercises in the textbook, including issues of cultural competence.
My students are fucking amazing. They blow me away, they make me proud, they humble me, they...make me feel honored to be in a position to teach them. Their journals were incredible. They shared with me their past, their present, and their dreams for the future. Many of these students have, or had, challenges in their lives that far surpass any challenge in my own. I stand in awe of them, admire them for persevering and struggling to get an education despite their circumstances.
Whether it's the young moms: one whose child has Tay-Sachs disease, the other's child autism, yet another's severe asthma. Or the mom who missed an exam because of an infection from dental surgery, and then missed the makeup exam because her child was admitted to the hospital that morning. You could see the deep exhaustion etched around her mouth and eyes, yet she had brought in copies of documents to excuse her absences because, in her words, she loves school, wants to be here, and doesn't want her professors to think otherwise
Or the veteran who was exposed to agent orange and has cancer, had a rough spell and missed a due date for an assignment and wasn't prepared for the exam but took it anyway (and did quite well). Or the young man who is late for class every day because he and his brother are trying to take care of a father who recently lost his job and isn't doing well, and he can't leave his father alone so must wait till his brother gets home from work in the morning before he can leave for school.
Or the young man who trusted me enough to share something very personal, only to find -- or he will find -- that his trust was violated. He is a sweet, extremely intelligent (the kid could write circles around me) young man who has never acted in a questionable manner in class. And he never did anything to deserve, at such a young age, a mental health diagnosis that will keep him on meds for the rest of his life, leave him misunderstood and stereotyped, and make people afraid of him. He shared information that unfortunately falls under the 'red flag' of potential danger to himself or others, and I had to betray his trust and share his writing with the counseling center yesterday. I can only hope that one day he'll see why I did it and forgive me.
And yes, I know I did the right thing, and I did it in the right way. I went to the equivalent of my 'supervisor' first for guidance, then spoke with a counselor, and the counselor will take it from there. And I did it because I have a duty to protect all my students and other college personnel, as well as the student in question.
But doing the right thing isn't always easy or clear. And it doesn't always make you feel good about what you did.
I had three bowls of cocoa krispies for dinner last night, and it still didn't make me feel any better.