Radically Empathetic

This NPR segment is one of the 100s that I have heard since the beginning of the pandemic about working mothers and how their situation is not sustainable.

I'm a working mother, and my situation was not sustainable.  

When we first went into quarantine, I knew right away that working from home with my toddlers was gonna be a challenge.

I also knew that it was going to be a challenge for my students. Right away my students started struggling, with their internet, their jobs, their children at home, their elderly parents, their own health (physical and mental).  And their struggles echoed mine.  I could only see one way forward, radical empathy.

I typically have a lot of class rules: firm due dates, lots of assignments, no late work.  But more than I wanted to make sure they followed the rules, I wanted my students to succeed during this insanely challenging time.  I wanted to be sure that they crossed the finish line and I felt like I could be a teammate in doing so.  I felt it in my heart when colleagues would talk about students not keeping up because I was only meeting my deadlines my the grace of caffeine, a completely destroyed house, and late-night grading.

And you know what?  Over the last two semesters, I have realized that I like feeling like I'm on a team with my students.  I want them to learn to be responsible employees, and I don't want to pass students that can't do the work, however, I realized that it made no sense to imposes such strict rules in a world so full of unknowns.  And even though it is amplified in these crazy times, my student's lives are always filled with chaos.  One Fall semester, I felt like I was home with sick kids 50% of the time.  I felt like I was drowning, but meeting my responsibilities by the skin of my teeth.  And sometimes, I didn't.  And you know what?  Everyone was forgiving.  How would have I felt if they hadn't been?

So many of my students are great when they have the time to do the work.  And how much time that takes has so much to do with so many other factors.  So, I'm learning to be more flexible: with them and with me.


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