Sunday, November 26, 2006

Frustrated and Thankful

This Thanksgiving, I've been thinking a lot about a student of mine who confided in me last week. I'm not always comfortable writing about students, but I can't get her out of my mind. Briefly:

- she's going through a custody battle with her ex, which she has been on the losing side of for some time, but in which she may eventually prevail.
- she's married to a guy who just lost his job.
- because of the two circumstances above, she can't afford her books--or her meds.
- she has ADD and a host of similar challenges, but is still keeping up in class.
- and there's a bunch of other nasty stuff going on, too.

I really enjoy working with "older" undergraduates (she's a bit older than I am). They often have terrific perspective and amazing tenacity. But sometimes I need to be reminded just how difficult it can be to be in your 30s (or 40s or 50s) and be an undergrad. I find I'm more lenient about deadlines with these students because of their special challenges. Is that unfair?

I'm thankful that I have students who demonstrate such strength, and I'm thankful that I was privileged enough to attend college from age 18-22 while I still had the energy and focus to do so. I can't imagine being an undergrad who's married and has a kid, let alone the host of other difficulties that have usually delayed college for older students.


Anonymous said...

me too...i am lucky.

and i don't think being lenient is bad. especially with people with reasons i find more valid than -- i want to go home so I can ski.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I was an undergrad in my 30s (and single parent of 3)and I have to say that while it was difficult that there were also some pluses--I so appreciated being able to be a student, much more than I would've at 19. And I had great relationships wiith profs. I tried really really hard not to use my kids as an excuse, but I did appreciate it when profs were understanding if the kids were sick and I had to miss school.

Kate C. said...

I always admire students who are returning as adults--and it also often makes me think of how easy I had it as an undergraduate. I think it is reasonable to be more lenient with any student who is having a hard time outside the classroom and has a "real" excuse--whether it is an older student in a custody battle or an 18-year old freshman whose father died in the middle of the semester (as happened to one of my students this summer). It is just that older students are often more likely to have those real excuses.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! I always make reasonable accommodations for students who are really trying.

Unknown said...

*Delurking here*
I was an undergrad who went back to school as part of a program for older women. I can't tell you how much our profs' accommodations meant to us, whether we were having problems with kids or aging parents or ADD or whatever. Please continue to be lenient! You're not being unfair, you're just leveling the playing field!

PS Like your blog :-)