It seems like this semester, more of my students are having mini-disasters disrupt their lives than is usual. While I've labeled these "mini," I do recognize that for an individual student, they're not minimal at all, but can be incredibly serious. But they're not widespread or shared with everyone in the area, either.
I think with the budget problems and the changes to the Federal Perkins loans, and so forth, everyone around here is under a fair bit of stress. And that goes double for students who are most financially vulnerable.
Some of my students seem so move from one disastrous problem to another. So, they'll run into a family disaster, and then they'll have a health problem or a car breakdown, and then they'll have further transportation problems (we don't have great public transportation in the area, though there is some in town).
I have one obviously middle-class student who had a mini-disaster to start the semester, but he has family resources to help him, and he or his family are savvy enough to get hooked into the services he needs, and so he seems to be not caught up in a cycle of one problem adding to another. For him, the services are working as they're supposed to for everyone.
But then I have another student and even though he's hooked into the campus services and they seem to be trying, it's one problem adding to another and another.
In other news, the faculty and staff on nine month contracts around here are celebrating Octobercheck, the first paycheck since June. Here again, social class seems to matter a lot. Folks from the middle class (like me) mostly seem to adapt after a year or two, and are able to save enough during the school year to be fine over the summer. For folks like me, Octobercheck is nice, but it's nice because it's good to see the checking account stabilize again, not because I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage or rent, or wouldn't be able to get groceries.
But I have friends and colleagues from more challenging economic backgrounds, and even though I know they're paid about what I'm paid (some more, some less, depending on field and rank and such), they can't seem to get ahead enough to make summer reasonably secure. They'll be on their way, and then a family member will desperately need a loan, or their student loans are so immense that they're always almost crushed all the time.
One of my colleagues told me the other day that s/he has switched to multiple choice exams in most of his/her lit courses and has students do only minimal writing, most of which s/he doesn't respond to or grade. I'm conflicted. On the one hand, let's face it, a lot of people have harder teaching loads than we do and manage to assign and grade papers and writing, and to work with students on writing. On the other hand, it's really hard. This person way outranks me, in no small part because his/her research record is far stronger than my own.
And, on that other hand, I'm getting 35 short papers from my intro to lit class today, and 10 or so revisions from my writing class (a class this other colleague has creatively managed to avoid for 3 years). Yep, I'm going to have a fun weekend. (And they have to get done this weekend because next week is packed and then next Friday I get a set of projects from a class of 30.)
In the meantime, let's all celebrate Octobercheck!