27 January 2011


This morning, there are inches of snow piling up outside. Below the snow, a good deal of ice. Two hour delay cancelled the morning class that I teach, but I'll still have to trudge through it at some point to get to campus for work and my evening class. Yesterday was pretty nasty too... lots of walking through sleet and heavy snow. Uncomfortable weather... glad I don't have to drive in it.
Yesterday, while I was anticipating heavy snowfall and debating my colleagues about the potential of a delayed/cancelled classes, some of my students were receiving news of something even more worrisome: flooding along the western coast of Saudi Arabia. Many of our students are Saudis; eight students out of the fourteen on my roster are from Saudi Arabia or a neighbouring state (Kuwait, UAE). I've become used to reading journal entries about Eid celebrations and vacations to Egypt.
Yesterday, I learned about flooding in Jeddah, the hometown of many of our students. Usually, I (semi-)keep up with international news via BBC and NPR. This time, though, the news came with pictures on a student's cell phone, photos sent from family members back home in Jeddah. Photos like these. In another class, individual student presentations were postponed in favour of a less stressful group discussion - because students who haven't been able to get in touch with Jeddah family members were too upset to complete their planned speeches.
This is part of teaching: the walking with my students through unexpected aspects of life. It's a valuable part, a way of reaching out and sharing a human moment. There isn't much I can do to stop the flooding in Jeddah. But I can - and will - provide a listening ear and a supportive heart to my Jeddah students, as will the rest of my colleagues.

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