Many of the issues I write about are important–at least, I think they are. Others should be filed under First World annoyances.
This is one of those.
Many years ago, a biologist at Eastern Connecticut State University, proved a long-suspected correlation between grandparent deaths and exams.
After collecting data for 20 years, Adams concluded that a student’s grandmother was far more likely to die before midterms than at any other time of the year. More specifically, his research showed that grandmothers are 10 times more likely to die before a midterm, and 19 times more likely to die before a final exam. Grannies of students who weren’t doing well in their classes were at even higher risk of meeting their maker: Students who were failing a class were 50 times as likely as others to lose a grandmother.
Like many professors, I’ve encountered this phenomenon, and I can tell you that it’s really difficult to address. No one wants to demand that a genuinely grieving grandchild produce a death certificate, but no one wants to be “played,” either. It calls for finesse.
Recently, this coincidence of grandparental death and exam times was the subject of an article that included a survey of several instructors, who were asked how they coped with this particular dilemma. Here is my favorite–one I fully intend to adopt.
Dear Student: I’m very sorry to hear of the loss in your family. Please know you are all in my thoughts in this difficult time. I understand the importance of family in times of grief, and I hope you can be a source of support for your parents in what is one of the most difficult life transitions we all must face as we get older.
I would very much like to send your [Mom or Dad] a card and a short note to let them know they are in my thoughts and to single you out for praise in being so proactive and forthright in speaking to me. Would you be kind enough to send along [his or her] snail mail address so I can get this in the mail in the next day or so?
[H/T to Jim Brown, who posted this article on Facebook!]