There's a stereotype among professors about students whose grandparents seem to get seriously ill or die at key moments in the term, preventing the students from attending, taking midterms, turning in key assignments, and so forth.
I've had very few ill or dying grandparents in my teaching career. Either my students are more creative, or they have real problems.
The big one seems to be depression. I spent part of the other day talking to a student who'd decided to go back on hir depression meds after pretty much near failing the term. I'm glad ze's going back on the medicines, since I've known the student for a couple terms, and ze's generally a good student, and so I have hopes that things will work out better.
I spent another part of another day talking to a student who may be depressed (or not, because Shakespeare really doesn't qualify me to say). I tried to talk hir into seeing a doctor or counselor to get checked out and get some help, but ze resisted because ze doesn't want to become dependent. Our culture has this fantasy that if we try hard and just pull on our bootstraps, we can do anything, and that anything includes dealing with chemical problems. Well, some chemical problems. I've never heard anyone talk about diabetics being "dependent" on insulin in a bad way, for example. Nor do any of the folks who can avoid bad migraines seem to feel morally inadequate because they've found better living through chemistry. But depression seems to be one of the areas we most have that fantasy about.
I've wondered if I've been depressed at different times in my life. But, being full of the cultural fantasy, and scared of the potential truth, I've never really sought to find out. And, even at its worst, my lows were way less difficult than the lows some of my students seem to experience. So I at least somewhat understand the reluctance to subject oneself to medicalization or whatever. And while I can talk the talk about not being biased about depression or medicine or whatever, it's sort of like racism: I know I've been raised to be a racist, so I fight it. I also know I've been raised to believe our cultural fantasy about bootstraps, but do I fight that as conscientiously?
I wonder what the real rates of depression are for college students in the US? And I wonder if it's worse up here with so little daylight during the winter?
But depression's not the only thing. This semester, I've had students sick with flu (to be expected), deal with family/friends' suicides, cancer diagnoses, unemployment, displacement, and so forth. I wish I thought my students were being creative rather than having real problems.
Even having real problems, though, isn't always a full excuse. One of my students has a time-limited documentation of a problem. Ze came to the final, having missed almost every class during the semester and having turned in no assigments. (Ze did fail one quiz and take the midterm with an okay grade.) Ze stopped at the desk after turning in the final to tell me that Ze had emailed me all hir work for the semester. Having checked my email for something else just moments earlier, I told Ze I hadn't received the email. And then I asked ze why I should accept the work that hadn't been turned in before the time-limited problem, how that would be fair to the students who'd turned in their work on time. Ze looked at me. I said that it was a real question, that I really needed to understand why ze thought that would be appropriate or fair. Ze said it wouldn't. (Yeah, I'm sort of expecting to hear from a deanling about this.)
Let's hope for a less disastrous new year, with classes full of students who don't get sick, who don't have friends commit suicide, and whose parents are employed.