She's anemic. She's had the flu twice already this term. Her roommate tried to get her kicked out of the dorms because of some disagreement over cooking smells. Gloria's dad and mom are getting divorced, and Gloria's brother was arrested for distributing drugs up in Seattle over the summer and he has a trial that is running in fits and starts.
And Gloria is the best student in my sophomore literature class. When she's there.
I see Gloria in office hours once a week or so, usually after she misses one of my classes. She's at the very limit of absences that my college allows. (It's not an actual policy, but a guideline. When I started teaching here this term I was told by longtimers that nobody ever uses the policy, that students never need an attendance policy.) Gloria has done all the major work; she's never missed an exam or a paper, but she's missed enough class that other students are aware of it.
I saw Gloria on a stretcher in front of the cafeteria two days ago. She smiled and waved at me. "I just passed out," she said. "I'm okay, though. Sorry I missed class."
She's funny, smart, works well with others, and could probably pass the class without attending the lectures or discussions at all.
But should she? Isn't part of the class the attending, the taking part?
One student asked me last week, "Do you let Gloria have excused absences? What if the rest of us only came on our good days?"
When Gloria sits in my office, we talk about class. I don't redo the lectures, but we have discussions about what we've read. She usually just tells me what she thinks about the work, its value. She's always forceful and clear, and the book she holds up to make her point is full of notes and scribbles.
I worry about her. I worry life will get in the way and she'll never be what she might.
Note from CM: This is day # 493 since the blog started,
and this is post #2000