Trauma is part of the job for many community college instructors, writes Wick Sloane, who teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. After the Marathon bombing suspects were named, Sloane checked his e-mails: Tamerlan Tsarnaev took his College Writing I class in spring 2007, cut frequently and failed. He’d sent a few e-mails excusing his absences before he quit for good.
Sloane has no insight into Tamerlan or his brother, he writes. But he’s often felt the urge to cry since “Bloody Friday” when police shut down Boston and Cambridge. Sloane lives a mile from the shootout and explosion that killed his former student. A few years ago, he ran the Boston Marathon.
Holding instructors accountable for students’ success “is fine by me,” writes Sloane. “The solutions just need a load factor for the days that community college teachers need a good cry.”
He’s experienced “secondary trauma” by reading his students’ essays.
. . . in a few short years: murder, rape, shootings; sudden and prolonged homelessness; memories of wars in Somalia, Eritrea, El Salvador, the Congo; a father killed in the civil war in Mali; a student for whom I was buying a sandwich at 5 p.m. saying, “I guess you could tell I haven’t eaten since yesterday.” Domestic violence. Stories from veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another student in that 2007 writing class, Cedirick Steele, was shot and killed for no apparent reason. “The shooters planned to kill someone, it didn’t matter who.” Sloane testified as a character witness for the victim when the murderers were tried and convicted four years later.