Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The hazards of teaching

Generally, teaching philosophy isn't physically dangerous... sure, there is the risk of a nasty papercut, a caffene overdose or some other academic hazard -- the worst it gets is when I teach logic and have my chalk allergy flare up... not exactly a risky occupation.

Teaching can be emotionally dangerous. We teach students, who do dangerous things and have hard lives.

This semester I've had a student in my class who has a unique perspective. I'll call him "Joe". Joe spent much of his childhood in South Africa. He is white. He's also pretty smart, articulate and generally a good student for me to have because he likes to object and challenge -- and he does so in a respectful manner.

On Monday, "Joe" had an 8-10 page paper due -- but he didn't come to turn it in. i thought he might have been confused by the final exam schedule (it is confusing for his class time.. he isn't easily confused). I figured I'd give him until class time on Wednesday to get it in before I decided he was going to fail the class. I hate to do that to an otherwise good student..

I'm glad I waited.

Today I checked my voicemail. There was a message from "Joe". He sounded terrible... I could hardly understand most of his message, but it was clear to me that he wasn't well and that I should call him. This got me worried -- I like "Joe", he's a good hearted person who is in college to get an education AND to get a better job. That is kind of rare in the philosophy factory, so I appreciate "Joe" as a student.

I called "Joe" back, he answers and sounds really out of it. He told me he'd been snowboarding, fell and seriously hurt himself. He says the doctor says that he should be in bed for at least two weeks to heal, and as long as he does heal all will be well later.... if he doesn't, his injury could be fatal.

"Joe" and I worked out an incomplete arrangement, although he was on percoset -- so I hope he remembers the deal.

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