Oh no – Mononucleosis!

Alexandra Beard, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Economics, BCA

Have you ever felt uncomfortable when someone told you they had a mononucleosis?…..

I have….

Two weeks into the semester, John who was registered for my class, but whom I have never seen before, sent me an e-mail and said that he was missing the classes because he was diagnosed with mononucleosis. He asked me to not drop him from the class for absenteeism because he was on the recovery path and was planning to get back on track soon.

John asked me to set up an appointment with him to go through the material that he had missed…

My first thoughts were “Oh No – Mononucleosis…. Is it contagious? Will he spread it to me?” “Will he fail the class?”

Back then my subconscious had already built a bias against this student. I was even thinking that dropping John from the class might be a good idea because after missing so many classes, and being sick, he would not be able to catch up. I still do not know why, but I did not drop him…

When the day of appointment came, I was ready to spend an hour desperately trying to catch him up on everything that he had missed in class.

At that point, I still was not sure if it was a good idea to let him stay in my class or not.

When John showed up in my office, he was very pale and constantly eating orange slices to boost his weakened immunity with vitamin C.

But then a completely unexpected thing happened…

John pulled out a thick folder of what turned out to be a printed out copy of all of my online lecture notes, full of his hand-written comments, sticky notes, drawn graphs and finished calculations.

….I was amazed, to say the least.

Barely ever I have seen any students in my classes taking notes as thoroughly and keeping them as organized as “John” did.

C’mon, this guy was sick for several weeks, did not attend even one class…..and yet….he was a few steps ahead of most of the students who had been in my class at that point.

So John apparently stayed in my class and had ever since been not only in the top 5% of my students, but also one of the very few who could really “think like an economist”, rather than memorize the graphs and math.

Not a long time has passed since that happened, but it reinstated a very valuable old lesson to me: never judge a book by its cover. Be it mononucleosis, autism, HIV or anything else, you never know who can turn out to be one of the brightest and promising students in your whole career.