I got through class last night and it went OK. I am relieved the class is over, but I can't get the student who died off my mind. He was one of the students who waited after class to shake my hand and introduce himself on the first day. He was the only student to choose to write on the more difficult question about John Locke on the midterm (the majority chose the easier questions that were drawn from the text book). He made a cute cover page with color pictures of John Locke for the paper. I know all the students in class remember him because before Thanksgiving he gave a very heartfelt presentation about his football injury from high school.
For the first time in a long time I was nervous about teaching as I walked to class last night. I started class by having a moment of silence in his memory. Then I gave them a handout I made with contact information and hours for university counseling services and a peer counseling hotline run by students, the religious organization on campus, the university police department and the local psychiatric center. I gave them the information about the memorial service so they could attend. I encouraged them to seek help for this or any other pressure they may have. I told them to approach professors if they are having trouble or need extensions etc. I told them I understood completely what they are going through because I had a friend who killed himself in college. And I gave them some personal advice, of the "what seems to be important now will not be all that important in a year or five years or twenty years" and "getting a C is not the end of the world" and "hindsight is 20-20; it is easy to look back and think that you should have noticed he was depressed and maybe you could have helped, but the truth is it probably would not have changed anything, and even if it could have, there was no way you could have read his mind" and "take care of yourself during finals, get rest and be sure to eat." I shared a positive story about the student and his excellent midterm. I also told them that if at any point they want to talk to someone they can always call or email me, even down the road.
Then I asked them if they wanted to share anything. Three or four students did. One was his dorm neighbor, and two worked with him in group. All shared positive anecdotes. Several others were silent but had teary eyes.
Wednesday night we saw the musical Chicago at Proctor's in Schenectady. I had been looking forward to it for a long time, and then that day I was concerned because I was preoccupied. But in the end, it was a good diversion, and the show was great.
In other news, we are having the first major snow storm of the season.