On When I Misread a Student

I had her pegged so wrong.

She is young, beautiful, polite, a good student and writer,  but with a lovely inner stubbornness.  On the first day of class when I ask each student to introduce themselves she gave us her name and said that she is a proud Christian. (Not an unusual demographic at our college, with the local mega-church across the street.)

She struggled when asked to choose a topic for the rest of the term’s projects (a review of the literature on a controversial issue, and then an argument essay on that same issue). First, she investigated the issue of dating, and whether dating led to divorce.

This topic confused me at first, until an ex-fundamentalist Christian I know filled me in on the idea that some religious groups believe that young people should not date, but that their relationships should be arranged by their elders. The theory is that dating different people sets one up for a failed marriage in the future (because of the memories of those cool dates? that part I can’t quite figure out).

But the young woman student didn’t find any sources on that subject, interestingly, even after I tried to point her in the direction of arranged marriage (not where she wanted to go).

Now her topic is Are fathers necessary?  And she has found many sources on the subject: those arguing that fathers are not necessary for raising (rearing?) children; those that argue that fathers are necessary economically and for socialization; and those that take the middle ground (a father figure is necessary, though not necessarily the biological father).

I, naturally, assumed she would argue that a father was necessary; however, since their first essay is an objective review of the research, I don’t know for sure where she stands.

Until 3am last night, when it occurred to me that she is probably pregnant (I’m noticing weight gain, and odd food choices during class).  And that the biological father is probably not sticking around.  And that this is a serious issue for her.

I have no intention at this point of asking her: I’ll just see what I see in her writing. But this young, stubborn girl fascinates me. She is such a good student, a good writer, yet she tells me she’s leaving college after this term (more evidence, I realized at 3am, for my 3am brainstorm).  I can’t wait to see her essay.

Or should I talk to her?

10 responses to “On When I Misread a Student

  1. I wouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot pole. I don’t care if a million bucks was attached to the pole. NO FRIGGIN WAY.

    I would tell her, *only if she reaches out and spills*, that you are there to listen if she needs a non-judgmental ear. Tread lightly though.

  2. Good advice JC. She seems too self contained to spill, but who knows?

    Thanks Ink and Bardiac for the comments: it’s funny the students that affect us. I can never anticipate who it will be each term, but we are at that point of the term (week 7 out of 11) where relationships finally gel.

    I certainly hope I’m wrong about the young woman: I suspect I’ll find out when I get her paper next week…

  3. Wow. What a story.

    Poor thing. I wish she were doing an essay on woman’s right to choose (abortion, adoption, proud single-motherhood, etc.).

  4. Ah, yes, bsgirl, that would be amazing: proud single motherhood indeed!

    I think she senses my interest in her: today in class she showed me her essay outline and refused, with a smile, to tell me what her conclusion would be (that’s where they “get” to give their perspective after the objective review of the research).

    I did mention, as we discussed her outline, that I was raised by a single mother and that I was definitely interested in reading her research since I hadn’t thought about the issue yet (a white lie that allows her to see me as objective on the issue).

    More next week: no matter her situation, I definitely love seeing her so engaged in her research and writing (as a contrast: the student next to her in class is doing something on animal rights and really has no opinion on the issue, so she says, whatsoever).

  5. Hi Mags;-)
    I can’t believe I’ve forgotten to post the conclusion!

    So, I misread her AGAIN. She’s NOT pregnant, but a boyfriend did just dump her. My initial impression of her take on the father issue was right, though: she very much believes that fathers are important (“a father in the home is the embodiment of our holy father,” she wrote in her essay).

    She’s a diligent student, a wonderful writer, and yet still determined to drop out of college, do some missionary work, meet her future husband and teach her children well. Not exactly the path I wish she was taking, but that’s ok. She’s not pregnant. She is who she is though, and no talk from me about how she has such amazing intellectual potential that she should continue nurturing will stop her from smiling at me as if she had all the answers to the world’s problems and I had none.

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