Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Student Tragedy

I'm afraid I'm going to write this as if it is funny. It is not. But a matter-of-fact list-y tone is all a can muster at the moment before I go home and cry, pet my cat and eat ice cream because I can't freakin' DO anything that will be of any help to anyone except prepare my lectures for tomorrow and I'm not just up to that.
So far this semester, I have had a student die, a student with probable ovarian cancer, a student with acknowledged painkiller addiction, a student's whose wife miscarried, a student with brain surgery and the usual quantity of student's with family members in various kinds of trouble (sick kids, nasty divorces, grandparents dying) and romantic ailments. Then today I received the call from my senior who just found both of her parents murdered. Okay, now I'm crying again. Aaaaaagh.


Jennifer said...

I am so sorry Lisa. I don't know what else to say - but I wish I could give you a big hug and write your lectures for you.

Cathy said...

Wow, Lisa. I'm so sorry. And sorry for your dept. and student body as well. That's a lot of real life drama to handle in one semester (and in general!).

Maybe you could send us each a topic and we could all write a lecture for you. (That, actually, may not only serve to help you, but could also get you laughing given that I likely know nothing about the things you are teaching).

Sparkling Squirrel said...

Thanks Ferny. I guess I should consider it fortunate that this is totally out of my league for things to deal with. I keep thinking of better things I should have said when she called but then realized that having an appropriate response for when a student calls to tell me her parents were murdered is not something that will ever do me any good, I pray. I still don't know what, if anything, to say in class. When the student died earlier this semester, I heard the buzz from the students and there was an official college announcement so I knew that my students knew. I haven't heard any students talking about this and class is small enough that she will be missed but "Jack's not here because her parents were shot yesterday and its been less than 24 hours since she found them" is not a great way to start class

Sparkling Squirrel said...

Thanks Cathy.

Cathy, you're on plant hormones and someone else can take captive breeding programs and conservation.

I think I have it under control but bleh. . .

Jennifer said...

Sometimes in the face of tragedy, a little absurdity can momentarily lighten your heart.

Thus I offer the following.

For class today I had my students read a paper on the difference sources of plant colonizing disturbances. The site was an English grassland with lots of sweet bunnies. Since rabbits dispersed some of the seeds, one of the treatments was removal of rabbit pellets.

So some poor undergrad or grad student spent their summer removal rabbit poop from 0.5 m x 0.5 m plots. I am looking forward to my students' reactions.

Jennifer said...

Cathy - I'll trade you captive breeding programs for plant hormones.

Debbie said...

Holy cow. Why is your college experiencing all this? Is your school small enough that anything that happens affects all classes and teachers? Is it the WVA culture? Is it your position of authority and contact with the students that makes you painfully aware of every tragedy - personalizes it? In all my 37 years I'm not connected to as many tragedies as you are in your semester. Through slight acquaintances at church maybe, but nothing that affects their interaction with me. Go hug your kitty.

Debbie said...

Here is something warm and fuzzy. I'll try to make it clickable.



Irene said...

Oh, Lisa. I'm sorry that you and your students and colleagues have had so much trauma lately. Big hugs.

Beth said...

((hugs)) ack. I have no useful commentary at the moment other than I'm really sorry that you have to deal with this and that your student has too as well.

Is there a student counseling office that can come tell your class or be there with you? I know I have that option when life/announcements are out of my league.

As far as lecture ideas - movie day in case people need to watch it later?

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry to hear about this. I don't know that in situations like these, there is really ever the right thing to say or do as I can't even imagine what that person is going through. Just letting the student know that I would be there to support them if needed would be what I could offer..

Tucson Trekker said...

Hi Lisa. I'm so sorry. I can relate. I've had several tragedies (suicides, murders, accidents) in only 2 semesters of teaching 1 fairly small class. It sucks when you look around your class and feel like crying because you know the students are experiencing horrible things. My position is a bit easier than yours, though, because the students don't really know each other, so no announcement is needed, even when people stop attending class.

As a student I had no idea how common it was for others in the class to have major bad life events going on. It shocks me as a teacher and is one of the hardest parts of the job. I figure all I can offer is as much academic support/extra help as I can plus an ear if they need it. I thought it was because I teach at a community college in a city with its share of poverty, crime, and social injustice. Many of my students are disadvantaged in various ways or trying to work out of bad life situations.

I really wish I could make it better for you.

Sparkling Squirrel said...

J did actually send me her plant hormone notes, so that's covered. We're discussing Vancouver Island Marmots and black footed ferrets in Conservation so captive breeding is pretty well done (I'd feel guilty if somebody else looked something up).

TT- I'm surprised that you've had that much drama in your small classes, and hope that it is an abberation as this year's quantity and intensity seems to be for me. But it's great that your students have you to help them deal. Stay strong.

Deb- some of it is the size of the college (when the two students died, everyone knew of it, but one of those was in biology classes-- and when something affects biology, it really affects us and all of the others are my advisees),
some of it is that students choose to confide in me (and I realize that this is a honor, but it's also a responsibility I don't always want. The ovarian cancer and drug issue [she is recovering] are not widely known. I was glad that I was told and tried to be of use, but life was much easier when I didn't have an office students are comfortable crying in)
some is related to TT's issues-- by being open admissions we are more prone to having students who come with bigger baggage than well-prepared 18 year-olds do (although of the problems I've listed, except the family issues, are all from white, middle class, "traditional" students
and I think the rest of it is just bad luck.
It's not a WV thing. Although some of the family things are bigger issues because students live closer to their extended families and if something affects an extended family it usually affects multiple students.

Beth- thank goodness we do have a decent counseling office now (we didn't all last year).

As far as class goes, I opted not to mention it. During senior seminar (an even smaller class) I will announce that Jack lost her parents (everyone there will know) and ask for student suggestions about what we can do as a biology senior class to help Jack.

Jenny said...

Thinking of you, and of her.

Erin said...

I'm so sorry to hear this news. I can't image what you and she are going through. Sending you both good thoughts and hugs. If you need an invasive species lecture...I'm you're GBK.