“I can’t put my finger on it.”
In our course team meeting this week a colleague was discussing intervention attempts with a student who was resisting offers of support. “Why do you think the student won’t accept tutoring?” I asked. It’s a question I should probably be asking myself about some of my own students.
My colleague wasn’t sure. The student was exhibiting a pattern of odd behavior: Unexplained tardiness; unexpected evasiveness; non-responsiveness. “There’s something going on,” my colleague said. “But I can’t put my finger on it.”
My colleague did put a finger on how I’ve been feeling. There are things going on with some of my students behind their zoom avatars, their emails, their chat messages, but it’s hard to know exactly what. So much harder to know than when you’re standing next to someone, when you can ask them to look you in the eye, when you can pull them out into the hallway for a quick check in.
Before I began teaching a mentor offered some powerful advice in the form of a warning: You never know what someone is going through. It’s good advice in life, and even better advice in teaching. And right now it’s harder than ever to know.