How Far is Too Far?

I'm on the phone with a furious father, about halfway through what will turn out to be a 45-minute conversation:
Me: Well, your daughter has basically stopped turning in assignments.  She's absent a lot, and when she's in school she spends a lot of time in the Guidance office, so she's been missing most of my classes too.  That's why her grade is so low.

Him: But you know she's not like this.  She's usually a great student.

Me: That was true during the first semester, yes.  I know she's been going through a lot of personal stuff; I've been getting your notes.

Him: I just don't understand why you didn't call me as soon as this started happening!

Me: Well, I have lots of other students, several of whom are also struggling, so it's hard to keep track of --

Him: So you just pick and choose who you'll help?  That sounds like a great system.

The sad truth is that I felt wounded when I heard these words.  Deep down, I wished I could have been more alert to his daughter's sliding grade.  Of course, he could have checked the online grade report, updated weekly; or he could have simply asked her, seeing as though he spends (ostensibly) many more hours with her each day than I do.

Besides, it's not my responsibility to be so closely attuned to each student as to know what constitutes a period of blase carelessness and what's cause for real concern.  Right?

I don't know.  I don't know where my job ends and my life begins.  I don't know what's reasonable to expect for the small sum I'm paid each month.  Four classes, plus prep, plus grading.  Plus thinking about them, worrying about them, on the weekends and in the early morning hours when I should be getting more sleep.  Plus phone calls like this one, while my soup grows cold on the table, condensation forming on the outside of my untouched water glass.

This piece -- yet another hard-hitting last-pager from the Week -- haunted me for all of those reasons.  It's not the fact that the teacher in question deals with much heavier issues than any of the blessedly sheltered students I see each day.  It's casual remarks like these:
My main gripe with Nicole was that she fell asleep in class. Each morning—bang!—her head hit the desk. Waking her was like waking a badger. Nicole’s unmarried mother, it turned out, worked nights, so Nicole would slip out with friends every evening, sometimes staying out until 3 AM, and then show up in class exhausted, surly, and hungry.

After a dozen calls home, her mother finally got back to me. Your daughter is staying out late, I reported. The voice at the other end of the phone sounded abashed and bone-weary. “I know, I know, I’m sorry,” she repeated over and over. “I’ll talk to her. I’m sorry.”

For a short time, things got better. Nicole’s grades started to improve. Encouraged, I hectored and cajoled and praised her every small effort. She was an innately bright girl who might, if I dragged her by the heels, eventually survive the rigors of a community college.

When a student falls asleep in my class, I generally let her be, figuring that 1) calling her out for it would be cruel, and 2) chances are she needs it more than whatever nonsense I'm spewing out that particular morning, anyway.  But taking that kind of personal interest in a student -- a student who appears to be one of many helped by this incredibly selfless and kind educator?  It's humbling.  Embarrassing, even.

And so I swallow and tell the father I'm sorry, that I will watch her more carefully.  I'll watch them all, as carefully as I can.