From 1-9-16 – Every winter break I usually get sick at the beginning of the break. This year I got sick right before the winter quarter started. I didn’t feel very enthusiastic at first. On top of it, El Niño supplied the rain for the opening days, and the powers that be had me assigned to classrooms across campus. One of the classrooms was the exact same one I had been assigned a year ago when I wrote for the Reflective Writing Challenge, and I hadn’t improved one iota in working with PC computers. Another classroom had chalk boards, which I hadn’t used in I don’t know how long. During the whole class, the chalk dust made me cough, and when I wasn’t coughing, I was sneezing into Kleenex or blowing my nose. On the bright side, I was able to move all my classes to the LA Division area of the campus after the first day of class.
And yet, I looked out at the faces of the new students, or the students who were repeating the class, or the students who had moved on to the next class. What difficulties were they going through that I was blind to while being self-absorbed with a cold? Had they just arrived in this country? Had they gotten sick and had dragged themselves to class as well?
And then during my office hour, a former student came by to see me. He was now in English 1B, so he had been in one of my classes over a year ago. He had come to see me to apologize. I asked him why, and he said that when he was in my class the first quarter he was at Foothill, he had been absent a lot and had missed a lot of material. I thought he had been sick a lot. He told me that he had been extremely homesick and depressed. He had never wanted to study in the U.S. He had gotten into a university back home and looked forward to going to college with his friends. However, his parents told him that he would receive a better education if he went to the States. He had argued with his parents for a whole year before he was forced to leave his home country. I had no idea. Here was a student who was always laughing or smiling in class, and yet he had missed so many classes, and I hadn’t understood. He even mentioned how he had covered up how he really felt in class so that no one would suspect.
I wonder now how many students in my classes are in the same situation, and yet I may not notice it since they also might be covering up their feelings. As the week went on and I began to recover from my cold, I started to notice the individuals in my classes more and more. Behind those smiling faces might be happy students or students who are going through their own bouts of sickness or depression, and yet on the surface they look the same.