Yesterday I had a conversation with a student who has missed five out of fourteen classes. You might think that in that conversation I would tell said student that such absenteeism was unacceptable, that she should drop the class, that she should rethink her educational goals and what it takes to achieve them.
You would only be right about the last part, and even there it is not exactly what I said.
In fact, I was surprised when she missed the second day of class, because on the first day it was evident that she was one of the more engaged and adventuresome students I have had, and perhaps one of the most mature in this particular group. I thought it would be great to have her in class, and then when she missed the second day, and then the third day, I figured (and was disappointed) that she had decided to drop but had not gotten to a computer to do so.
But then I heard from her by e-mail. It turns out this student is an athlete, and in the first full week of school she sustained an injury which ended her season and required emergency surgery. (It turns out she has already had similar surgery several times, either on this particular knee or her other.) Then there were complications from the surgery (including, to my personal horror, one of her sutures getting infected) and she missed more days.
Now we get to the part of the term where she has to miss a number of classes because her team is traveling.
We had a long discussion about her options, and it was evident that none of them are really good ones. She said she felt she is "starting to be on the mend," and I thought, right: I thought that many times myself, and boy did I have a long way to go. She said that when she was on the serious drugs she could not even read at all, and man, did I know what that felt like. If she withdraws from the semester (which would allow her to get the other surgery she needs and perhaps actually heal), she will lose her sport scholarship, and that, of course, is how she pays for school. I could see and feel her pain and fear and uncertainty each time her eyes started to well up.
So it is her I was thinking about when I read this article that Magpie mentioned in a comment. I know that knees are not brains, and that bum legs are different from disorientation and headaches and constant dizziness and of course the longer term effects of concussion.