My teaching experience is not as extensive as yours, but I see the full spectrum too. I repeatedly tell my students that I’m available and understanding to all circumstances, that every person’s situation is negotiable.
Still I am looking at some who give me a rather dramatic story at the end of the semester. I had another students withdraw midway through, but I did not know of this first hand, the student just stopped (I have past experience and know the student deals with serious issues). On the other hand, many others let me know ahead of time when they are struggling with making a class or assignment. Or they are ill or their car broke down.
I know there are some high profile profs who write about not believing their students stories of family deaths, etc. I cannot do that. I cannot assume my students are lying with an excuse. Even if they are gaming me, I’d rather operate of a position of trust, that they are honest with me. I’d rather have trust in their word than operate from a belief they are not telling me the truth.
So I’d quibble a bit with the title. Students have a right of privacy not to tell me what is going on. That is foundational. But I’d say there is not a teacher’s “right” to know. That assumes a power I do not have. I have a desire to know, but never a right. I have to earn that.
And the relationship building does not come baked in because of our respective titles. It comes with time, often longer than a course length. They earn my trust, I earn theirs. Through experience, work, some crises, hopefully recovery.
I rely on their public work. Their blogs show if they are present, and more than that active. Tweets too. Hypothesis activity. Slack too. Not in an AI or automated message, but we can look at these together. When your work is public, there’s little you can fabricate about what was done or not. It’s visible (or not).
“I don’t think it’s fair to treat students as if they’re the same. They aren’t. ” – This is the place we need to be, all the time. Thanks for phrasing it likely this (as I am still facing doing my final grades).
But no, I do not have a right to know.
I have to earn that. I have to work at it all the time. I have to have a focus on the person not as some general blob category and sometimes I am faulty and vulnerable. I have to be human. I can’t see doing it any other way.