This week I have been reminded of the difficult, crisis-laden lives many of my students live every day. In one of my speech classes yesterday, a student spoke on PCP addiction. Her ethos argument was herself. She abused PCP for six years, and is still struggling to stay clean. At one point she just stood in front of the class, not talking. She explained that she is a living demonstration of what PCP does to a person - it erases your mind and causes you to blank out. It was a powerful demonstration, though not a perfect speech.
Then today a student explained his absence of last week. One of his best friends, who was serving in Afghanistan, was killed and he attended the funeral. Both of his brothers are serving in the military now.
Another student has some serious health issues, the main one being high blood pressure. She is a good student, and a good writer, but without health insurance it has been difficult to maintain her health. So she already has two absences.
I could go on and on. Students tend to be very revealing in their essays and tell me very intimate details of their lives -- lives too often steeped in poverty. Teaching at an open-access community college allows me to interact with students from very diverse backgrounds and ability levels, but many of them, most even, are at a community college because it's affordable. I cherish the diversity of my students, and pray that their education will be the way out of poverty.