If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I canceled class today. Both my kids are sick (one has an ear infection, the other has…trouble keeping food down), my husband is out of town at a conference, and I am a sleep-deprived mess. The kids’ preschool was closed yesterday as well, and while I found childcare, I almost passed out while I was teaching. The thought of trying to lecture with little to no sleep while my kids were at home, miserable, was too much for me, but it took me forever to finally send out the email to my students officially informing them that class would be canceled.
Part of my hesitancy is because of where we are in the semester: in the early stages of writing the first major essay. I am trying to treat the whole exercise as a process with lots of different steps, focusing especially on how you can set yourself for success early in said process. I am particularly worried about my Freshman Writing students; most of them are in my class because they were in developmental writing last semester or they failed the class in the fall. I want to help these students be successful; I care about their success and take my role in helping them succeed very seriously.
My title alludes to how I see my students as “my” kids, although many of them are the same age as I am or older. There was a post on Hook and Eye (it was subsequently removed; I think the author hit post instead of save and I just happened to be looking in my blog feed at the right moment) that talked about the power structure inherent in calling them “my” students, as well as the possible gendered implications as a female instructor. For me, calling them “my” students or kids is not an effort on my part to reduce their position and increase my power and authority, but instead a reflection of how personally I take my role as their teacher. I want them to see me as their teacher, belonging to them, not just now but as long as they need me. Our roles, in my mind, will always be teacher/student; it will evolve, but they can count on me as their teacher and I will always do my best for them because they are my students. It makes canceling class that much more difficult.
But, as I tell my students all the time, family has to come first. I wouldn’t have done them any good coming to class sleep-deprived with my mind elsewhere, worrying about my two small, sick children. And once I pressed send on the announcement that class was, indeed, canceled, I felt like a weight had been lifted; I was no longer worried about two very sick children and fifty very scared writers, just the two sick kids. Taking a day to focus on one challenge will allow me to refocus next week on those very scared writers. And get some sleep. That’ll benefit all of us in the end.