Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't Forget to Be Human.

In response to the "Finding the Right Balance" posts, I would say that it might be better to err on the side of compassion and to give some of these students a bit of a break.

I returned to university as an older student - one who held down a full-time job while also taking a full course load. After that I dropped back to working part-time so that I could concentrate on school but went through some extreme financial struggles because of this decision (if it weren't for my parents supplying me with food parcels on a regular basis I would have starved). I worked my arse off in school but there were times when I simply had too much on my plate and something had to give. Usually that meant school as putting work aside meant losing income, or perhaps the job itself, and I simply could not do that. Were it not for some very understanding professors, who gave me extensions when they didn't have to, I wouldn't have made it through. Perhaps the fact that I was an A student made a difference in their willingness to cut me some slack but I'd like to think that simple human decency played a large part in their decisions.

I made it through, proceeded to earn my MA, and am now a PhD candidate. But, if it weren't for the kindness of those professors who took the time to understand my situation, I'd never have made it through. In many ways, I owe my current position to them.

Although I am not yet a professor, I am a TA, and when confronted with students who are trying to balance life and school, I try as much as I can to remember the professors who helped me and I tend to give students the benefit of the doubt. Have I been burned by a couple of them? Of course. But I've also had others come and thank me for enabling them to get through the semester and continue on in school despite all of the other challenges life has thrown at them.

Perhaps we all need to remember that not everyone has an easy road to travel and that, out of sheer human decency, we should do our best to give them a helping hand.