Life is short
During my late class this evening (well, OK, it’s after midnight, so really it’s last evening) I found out from one of my students that one of the other students in the class had died in a car crash the night before.
This particular student was one of my best. Last week, the call had gone out for faculty to nominate students for this term’s achievement awards, and I was planning to give this student three: Academic Excellence, Persistence, and Most Helpful. I still want the awards to be given, so her family knows just how great a student she was.
She earned those awards. She always did her homework, and she always did a thorough job of it. The essays she wrote were excellent. Through those essays, I learned a bit about her. Her first essay, on which she earned a 5, the highest grade I give and one I give to only about three essays a term (among typically 40 or so students, writing 5 essays each), was a comparison between Albuquerque and Juneau, Alaska, where she used to live. Her descriptions were so vivid that she made me wish I could visit Juneau, and she created a compelling sense of place. She especially looked forward to returning there and living there – I find it heart-breaking that she never got the chance.
She was also persistent. Her job was demanding, and sometimes her work kept her from coming to class. But she did manage to break away from work long enough to come in and turn in her homework and get the assignments for the next class.
The award that she most deserved was Most Helpful. She was always willing to help other students with their work. One of the things I love about teaching English is that when students help each other, it’s collaboration, not cheating. I encourage students to help each other, whether it’s working together on a grammar worksheet or reading each other’s essays in order to provide constructive suggestions for improvement. This student helped others not just in the structured class setting but also outside of class. At the time she died, she had another student’s essay which she was reading in order to make suggestions for revision. When another student asked for help, she would always give it. She wasn’t just interested in her own success; she wanted everybody else to succeed, too.
I first heard about this student’s death from one of the other students in the class, but she also worked for the same company Pat does, so he had seen the notice in the company email. I don’t have any details yet about where to send condolences or funeral arrangements, but as soon as I do, I want to tell her family all of what I have put here.
Sometimes I have a promising student who has to drop the class because Life happens and that student needs time to regroup before taking the class again. It’s much worse when the student will never be able to take the course ever again.