Question: How to deal with "parents of college students" as a university instructor?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-13-2012
Question: How to deal with "parents of college students" as a university instructor?
36
Thu, 03-15-2012 - 9:38pm

Hi everyone,

I'm new to IVillage. I've made a couple posts on other boards these past few days, but I specifically came here to pose a question for "parents of college students." I hope no one here has been the perpetrator of the scenario I'm about to describe, but if any of you have done this, please don't take offense to my post.

I teach college (I'm a graduate assistant, currently getting my PhD). The term "assistant" is actually a bit of a misnomer, as I'm entirely responsible for my own course. Without getting into too many details, I teach a humanities/social sciences-related subject in a highly conservative area (by conservative, I mean combatatively so). Because of this, I'm already at somewhat of a disadvantage because few students see the value of my course. My problem, however, isn't

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-19-2006
"Also, why on earth do parents feel it's appropriate to call their adult child's college instructor?" As for your last question...I can't even begin to answer that one. I didn't even call my son's high school teachers. I let him handle things. Sometimes I wasn't happy with the outcome, but life is full of less than perfect outcomes. Besides, I don't have the time or energy to run my kids' lives. Maybe I am lazy, but I am more than happy to pass the responsibility on to them. As for your students and their views, check out my post about my son's geology class. My son goes to Colorado School of Mines and he is studying Geological Engineering. In his first geology class they took a quiz to test general knowledge. My son was shocked at how many kids answered that the world was 6000 years old. My son said that the professor must have expected those results because he just announced that the world is not 6000 years old and if you say that in this class you will fail. Good luck. I can't offer any advice.
Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
I can tell you that ds's middle school made it perfectly clear to the parents that we were not to intervene unless absolutely necessary, so through HS and now college, I never even think about it.

I'd say if, like at my ds's U, there is paperwork that the student can sign that gives the parents permission to see grades, then that's the line you take - say they are welcome to work with their student to get access to grades, but that it's for the students to discuss issues with the faculty. I'd say unless the student was very special needs, this would apply across the board, and I'd think there were rules for the special needs kids as well.

Best of luck - sounds very infuriating, as does teaching a class on a subject where the kids don't even have open minds. Hopefully you can look into teaching something else there in the future that's more conducive to the environment, or even consider it's not the right fit for you.

Sue
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-16-1999
You could use the standard line that is used by health care workers: "I'm sorry, but according to federal privacy laws, I am unable to discuss this information with you unless I have a written release from Johnny. I know its difficult, butii could be sued or sent to jail if I released information without a release. Its the law, there really isn't anything I can do about it." As for the subject material, if it is in conflict with a student's beliefs maybe he/she shouldn't be in the class. If they want to take the class, then they need to learn to spit out the answer that is being taught as being correct whether they believed it or not.. I am fairly certain that if any of those parents were teaching a class entitled "TheTennents of Christian Theology" they would expect that a student respond that the world is 6000 years old if he/she wanted to pass the class. In spite of what they wish to believe, most of this country does not subscribe to conservative Christian values and their kids (who are actually adults in the eyes of the law) cannot be sheltered from the rest of the country forever.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-16-1999
FWIW, my daughter is a nursing student in a clinical class taught by my sister-in-law that is held in the nursing home where I am a manager. I would never consider trying to discuss my daughters grades with my sister-in-law or with the nurse manager who is working with the class. None of my business, and it would be inappropriate for them to discuss it with me.
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999

(1) How do I explain to parents that I can't discuss their child's grade in a way that doesn't offend them?

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-16-1999
Just had another thought - if students are so easily "indoctrinated" they might not be so firm in their beliefs to begin with. Maybe that is what is scaring parents so much. Thirty years ago when I went to college, it was unheard of for a parent to contact an instructor - the assumption was that if someone is mature and responsible enough to go to college they were also mature and responsible enough to manage their academic life on their own. Are teens maturing so slowly today or are parents just that much more afraid to let go?
Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998

I think its mostly the parents. They've been involved and/or hovering for so long that they assume that they will just continue. And like you said, some parents may also be scared that the kids will learn and believe something that is outside of the parents' belief systems. I know someone who sent her dd to a Christian U that they could not afford because the mom was so afraid of what the dd might be exposed to at a public U.

I cannot add anything to the good responses already posted.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-19-2006
"if students are so easily "indoctrinated" they might not be so firm in their beliefs to begin with." Interesting point Rose. We are a fairly socially liberal family, but I was never concerned that my son would be "indoctrinated" going to a college with a large conservative population. My son is an adult and he needs to see the whole world and make his own decisions.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-25-2006

Your experience is a sign of the times, I'm afraid.

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http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/october/meet_the_new_health_.php

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQTBYQlQ7yM

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

Interesting point, Rose. I would have been totally mortified if my parents ever called one of my college professors--I'm sure they didn't even know my prof's names.

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