I've not been around much lately because of a death in my family. Almost all deaths are tragic, but this one is particularly difficult for me because it's a younger sibling, it was completely unexpected, he was missing for days, and there's an excellent chance foul play was involved. We won't know anything for several weeks because we have to wait for the autopsy.
Upon learning of this, I immediately explained the situation to my students, arranged for substitutes for my classes, and made the 1,000-mile journey home to help my family with arrangements. The Snowpocalypse hit, we had to reschedule everything, and this dragged out over a week. Needless to say, I'm a wreck, but I started back to work this week knowing that keeping busy would help me start healing.
Almost all of my students have been wonderful throughout this ordeal. They know I did everything to ensure they were taken care of in my absence (though something always goes wrong when subs come in, nothing catastrophic occurred), and many of them sent me notes of condolence or ecards to let me know they were thinking of me.
Then there were the few, the proud, the snowiest of snowflakes--the narcissists.
One student had her panties in a wad because something went wrong with the auto-divide feature of Blackboard. It seems that in our latest upgrade, instead of dividing the points so that they would total 100% in a question with three correct answers, it lopped off 2/10s of a point. She demanded my substitute contact me right away about fixing this terrible error because HER GRADES ARE VERY IMPORTANT. The class is worth 1,000 points. Thankfully, my sub left me alone, but no sooner did I announce I was back than I got an email demanding I fix this right away.
But my favorite by far is Self-Centered Susan. I had been back a grand total of two days when I received a lengthy missive from her. She made the requisite pleasantries about how sorry she was for my loss and then went into a 700-word essay about how I could make the class better for her. She said she knew I would want to know this because she could tell how much I care about my teaching. Among the requests: I should put all the calendar information on the syllabus and all the syllabus information on the calendar because that way she would not have to look in two places to find the information. I should set it up so that everything appears on a page at the same time (which is something she would know how to do if she'd gone through the Blackboard orientation--I can't control her personal settings). I should not use PowerPoint presentations because they load too slowly. I should use more video files. (If she thinks PowerPoint loads too slowly, WTF is going to happen with video files?)
It seems like no matter what I do, it's never enough for some people. My life has turned into an extended episode of CSI but without the competent professionals who actually care about the case. I hit the ground running when I came back to work Monday. I communicated promptly with my students, set up a grading schedule, and am already on schedule with my work as if I had not been absent at all. While I do care about my students and my teaching, at this point it is enough for me to say I will make it through the rest of this eight-week term and get my work done.
Right now I don't give a crap about self-improvement, meeting extra-special snowflake needs, or student evaluation numbers. All I really want is my brother back, but since that can't happen, my main concern is getting justice for him and making it through my own grief process while doing a competent job on the other things in my life that pay the bills. I am the equivalent of the C student at work right now, and that's going to have to be good enough. I accept that and am willing to take whatever consequences that result. I feel as if I should feel guilty for having this attitude, but I just can't. If students can make everything all about themselves, then I should be allowed to put my own needs first for a little while. I figure at this point, I'm operating on a slightly higher level than some of the silverbacks who've been phoning it in for years. I'm not proud of it, but that's the way it's going to be for the next few weeks. Just leave me alone, let me get through this, and give me my damned C. At least I'll put forth the effort to earn it.