Learning On A Knife’s Edge

I’m still struggling with my Mum’s recent, sudden death.  While that is going on, I’m dealing with a previously signed up for teaching qualification in computer engineering, and a series of slanderous attacks on my profession.  I can’t help but be self-reflexive about how I’m dealing with the role of student; I fear I’m not doing it very well.

Culturally, I think I’m on the Ridge

I’ve felt thin since that phone call on June 1st.  The North American manly thing to do is dismiss anything to do with it and proceed with a steady course of denial.  I suppose the stiff upper-lip English thing is to do something similar.  Since being dumped somewhere in the mid-Atlantic as a child, I’m having trouble adopting a social convention to follow.

The thinness I’m feeling has made for some awkward moments with time management.  On the first weekend, when I should have been plugging away on our first big assignment, instead I ended up going to the cottage and passing out on the couch.  It made for a stressful Monday when I returned, but one of the things about being thin is that there isn’t enough butter to evenly cover the toast.

I feel like we’re over the hump in the course now.  I’m finding old habits returning around hard focusing on specific tasks instead of just directionlessly wandering through the material we’re covering.  I’m a good student, even when I’m incomplete.  The deadlines have been difficult to handle, but perhaps their imminence helped me get my mind off subjects it wouldn’t let go of otherwise. The fact that the emotionally turbulent month of June is slowly receding might be helping too.

I’ve had students who have gone through emotional crisis, some of which make mine look like a walk in the park, yet we still come at them with curriculum expectations and demands.  I’ve always tried to step lightly in those cases, out of a sense of compassion.  It’s a difficult thing for a teacher to deal with.  In some cases a student who has gone through trauma is best left with space, but in others, giving them something else to focus on might help move them on emotionally.

No clear answer to this one, I fear.  Some days I’d be driving down to the course with tears rolling down my cheeks because of a song on the radio, right now I’m feeling pretty solid.  It comes and goes.  I guess the one take-away from all this is that you can’t make an algorithm or develop a system for dealing with emotional crisis; each person experiences it differently, and coming at it in a curriculum orientated, systemic manner is a recipe for disaster.

A good teacher will remember their own ups and downs and differentiate not just in terms of what a student is capable of intellectually, but also in terms what emotional focus they can  bring to bear.

In my own case, I’ve been trying to change my mind, but when it runs deep, it’s not always a matter of conscious choice.  In the end, if I can remember where I am now with my students in the future, I’ll be in a better place to respond to their needs.