Being “Other”

I have a student, let’s call him “Kip”, who is in the first year of the nursing program at Kabarak University.

Kip did not do very well academically in my Fundamentals of Nursing I class last semester. I noticed this early on (week #2) when I caught him cheating on the first 5-point quiz that I gave to the class (and for which he received a “0”, of course).

It sort of went downhill from there.  He did pass all of the other quizzes, although never achieving a “5”. He also participated in writing the Blackboard (online) discussion forum assignments, but regularly posted them so late that his final mark was a “12” out of “35” marks possible. Actually, now that I think about this, he also cheated on one of those posts by copying another student’s work and portraying it as his own.

Did he seriously think I would not notice this? I mean, after all, this guy was already on my “radar”.

Kip also failed both CAT (continuous assessment test) exams. On the first, he got a “6” out of 25 points; on the second, he improved to an “11”, but still two marks shy of the 50% required to pass. His final exam was even more spectacular in it’s failureship (26 marks awarded out of a possible 100). After coming an hour late to the three-hour exam and then leaving an hour early, he sat for most of the middle hour in his front-row chair with arms folded across his chest, glaring at me when he thought I wasn’t watching him.

The main reason for his failures was that he refused to write more than a word or two for the short- and long-answer questions required in all exams we set here. On the final exam, these two categories together made up 80 of the 100 marks.   Short-answer questions had also been included for both CATS. No wonder he failed.

And, lest you think I waited until the final exam to notice this, not true. I had noticed, and indeed had been counseling him and one other student who was also failing, since the first CAT. Everyone else (out of a class of 32 students) was doing fine and passing. As a first-year introductory class, the content for Fundamentals of Nursing is just not that difficult.

So, in order for Kip to continue and academically progress through the nursing program, he would have to take my class, Fundamentals I, again. With me. And, not only that; he would also need to concurrently take Fundamentals of Nursing II in the new January trimester. Also with me.

Does he have a form of dyslexia, since he seems so averse to writing?   This seemed to be a valid consideration to pursue. However, his high school record and performance in other Kabarak courses did not corroborate this.

No. It turn’s out that Kip’s problem, finally confided to our experienced department head (who gently coaxed it out of him) was that he had never had an “mzungu” (white, expatriate) teacher before.

Therefore, Kip saw me only as an outsider, a “Resident Alien”; an “Other”. This apparently freaked him out so much that he was not able to function in my class.

He simply could not, or refused to, cope.

Perhaps it’s a poor analogy, but this incident has been interesting to reflect upon in light of the current hysteria over the new immigration ban that has been introduced by our current U.S. President.

So much rancor from both sides; but also so much fear, specifically fear of the Other.

 We fear what we do not know, that which is foreign and alien to us, or perceived to be threatening to our way of life. How else to explain the massive fear of refugees who

  • have lost their homes through no fault of their own (please click to read the poignant poem by a Kenyan-born Somali poet)
  • are fleeing for their very lives from the same terrorists we accuse them of becoming, even though the risk of this is infinitesimally small (1 in 3.64 billion)
  • have been arduously, gruelingly vetted by the time their U.S. Visas are granted

Perhaps we fear them because they are “Other”. They are not like us; and we don’t think we’ll be able to cope; or perhaps refuse to believe we can.

But in doing so, we forget, in our fear, this one deeper truth: that we are all “Other”, to someone.

Like I am, for my student Kip.

Please try not to chastise me for the simplistic argument you think I’m making here. I do know the situation happening now in the U.S. is way more involved and complicated than this.

But do stop and think for a moment how you also might be perceived as being “Other”; by the way you look, the way you dress, the way you live, the way you think, the way you believe.

Because most likely you are being perceived that way, by someone.

So…what about Kip? He actually sent me an email over the Christmas holidays, promising “new resolutions for the betterment of my results” in the New Year. Thus far, he’s gotten two “5’s” on quizzes, one “5” on a Blackboard assignment, and our first CAT takes place this coming Wednesday (keeping my fingers crossed for him).

“For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow” 1 Chronicles 29:15

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” Deuteronomy 10: 17-19

Love the “Other”, as He first loved us.


One thought on “Being “Other”

Comments are closed.