Teaching Dilemmas 101!
Over the years, since I’ve been a travelling teacher (for the last 10 -12 years), I’ve journeyed through a number of global and local emergencies: terrorism threats, SARS, Swine Flu, minor domestic dramas back home and little personal maladies.
This year, for the first time , I became unwell enough not to function during a tour (mercifully, it was brief). I had taught the first of three days of classes in this particular location, but that evening I succumbed to something very nasty. I spent a rather lively night in the bathroom. At 0400 things started to improve and allowed me to start worrying about the next day’s teaching. I called my host as early as I felt I could get away with, to discuss the options with her.
One option was for me to stay in bed and have my host contact everyone to give my regrets and cancel. But, since quite a number of people had come long distances and had booked rooms for their visits in town, that didn’t seem to be a very nice option.
Option 2: Since I was fit enough to stand (or sit) and make a decent stab at teaching, I could attempt to get my act together and teach, with support from the shop-owner if the going got too tough (i.e. bathroom break required). However, I also didn’t wish to risk sharing whatever bug I had with my students.
Option 3: To turn the day into an informal knitting day, and for the storeowner to make a significant refund.
Cancellation didn’t seem to be a happy option, so some combination of the second and third options seemed the best. With the aid of over-the-counter meds, glucose drinks, frequent hand washing and lots of hand sanitizer, we got the show on the road. We discussed the game plan for the class: I would make minimal hand to hand contact with the students, and if I had to pop out, the shop-owner would step in and keep things rolling. Thank goodness for my compulsively comprehensive workshop notes!
The students were very understanding; knitters are the salt of the earth! Most have, at one time or another, fielded the various curve balls that life throws at us , and tend to take these minor hiccups in their stride. (I have, at past conventions, been the recipient of displaced, but un-rattled, students whose instructor was indisposed. )
With a somewhat more than usual number of pit-stops, I made it through the morning. So far, so good. I had a nap at lunch time. I made it ⅔ of the way through the afternoon, but then had an unexpected relapse. It was game over for me.
All this left me with some questions after the event: Were five (out of a proposed six) hours of teaching (admittedly perhaps not with quite my normal gusto) better than me staying in bed? There was access to my samples and the comprehensive workshop notes, plus teaching support from the wonderful shop-owner. Was the risk of spreading the virus acceptable to the students?
Luckily, I have taught four or five times for this wonderful store, so I didn’t feel that my failure to perform at 100% would be taken as the norm. The shop-owner was very kind and supportive. But, now we get down to the nitty gritty: there are many financial considerations in hosting an event such as this. The rental of the teaching space, cost of the flights, baggage and ground transportation, the catered lunch: all still have to be paid for by the shop-owner.
After the event, we received a number messages from students ranging from many of the ‘Thanks for a great and inspiring time’ kind, to one along the lines of ‘I really think we should have had a refund.’
The crew here at Tradewinds debated this problem, as well as discussing this with the shop-owner. It’s very difficult to say what would have been the right response, since something important was at stake for each participant. In the end, we at Tradewinds sent each student a credit note as a token of our appreciation of their support in rough times.
What do you think should have been done? Have you experienced this as a teacher or a student? Please pass along your thoughts on this issue.