Another student meeting. Another successful discussion about the research project. I'm not leaving with my warm and fuzzy butterflies this time, though.
This student has had a rough semester; I knew that, on one level, but without knowing anything else, I just had a record of class absences and missed assignments leading to possibly failing the course. I stopped the student after class the other day and suggested (okay, told) that my office hours today would be an excellent time to talk to me. We'd had a similar discussion earlier in the semester, so I was a little miffed that we had to rinse and repeat, but such is my job, right?
I handed over the Kleenex five minutes into our conversation. This student has had to manage a personal issue and two major family traumas this semester, on top of an 18-hour courseload. The student was very apologetic in explaining that classes were the only flexible option in all of that and the intention wasn't to blow off anything but there was just too much to handle at one time, literally and emotionally.
I can only imagine. I wish I'd known earlier because, I assure you, I would have handled my irritation about missed classes quite differently. At the same time, I'm a private person - I wouldn't have approached any of my professors with something like this, either - so I can understand the reluctance to talk about personal issues. The student is headed back toward solid ground academically now and there was laughter before we finished, so I feel okay about things in general.
I just needed to remember, it isn't really about the classwork after all.