Posted by: L. E. Barnes | August 31, 2009

Curve Balls

At the beginning of each semester, when discussing the attendance policy for my classes, I always remark to my students that I know life sometimes can throw some “curve balls” (i.e., unexpected difficulties) at us; therefore, I’m not totally rigid about the maximum number of absences they’re permitted. There are always extenuating circumstances.

Today I got an email from a young lady in one of my classes informing me that she missed the last couple of days due to suffering a miscarriage on Friday. Talk about life throwing a curve ball…

Teaching involves more than just textbooks and assignments. There’s the human element that can’t be ignored. Our students are more than just depositories for the knowledge we have to share; they’re people with complex lives outside the classroom. Yet we must maintain fairness as well as the academic integrity of the school. It seems that every semester I’m faced with having to decide whether to show a student leniency regarding their number of absences and/or not getting work submitted on time because of some problem they’ve encountered. It’s always a judgment call as to whether their circumstances merit cutting them slack, and sometimes I’m left wondering whether I made the right call. (Of course, in this situation, I’ll definitely show plenty of leniency.)

I’ve asked people I know to please keep that young lady in prayer. St. Macarius told a student of his that when praying, sometimes all that is needed is for one to say, “Lord, have pity on me as you desire, and as you well know how.” I’ve never been married and have never had children, so I realize I can’t know what it’s like for a person to suffer the loss of a child. All I can do is follow the saint’s advice and pray for the Lord to have pity on her and grant her the grace she needs during this tough time.

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