Thursday, April 21, 2016

If Only More Professors...

I was scrolling through my effbee feed this morning, holding off getting up for a few minutes, and saw a video link that said something like: she had to bring her baby to class and you'll never believe what the professor did...

And then of course, what the professor did was utterly believable; he was kind to the baby (and carried it around during his lecture, because he's apparently a baby whisperer).

There were numerous comments after the video, many of which gave little anecdotes about how the writer had needed to take a small child to a class and the professor was somehow especially nice to the child or about the situation, and sometimes that classmates were nice and helpful as well. 

And most of these ended with something along the lines of "if only more professors were this nice."

I saw one comment saying that a professor hadn't been nice/accommodating.

The thing is, the overwhelming majority of the anecdotes basically demonstrated that most professors in the situation were, in fact, pretty nice and accommodating.  But the "if only" statements would lead you to believe that professorial kindness and accommodation were markedly unusual.

I'm guessing students experience the small child in class situation relatively rarely, so they think that a professor who's nice about it and accommodates the child is, indeed, rare.

Parents of small children who are in college probably experience the situation more often, but perhaps usually with the same professor, so they still think of that professor as the exception?

Instructors experience the situation relatively rarely, mostly (though I imagine at schools with larger non-traditional student populations it happens more often), but still, over the course of several years, we're likely to experience it several times, enough to figure out that we can deal with a small child in the room so long as they're not super disruptive.  And perhaps we grow through life stages which lead us to be more accommodating to the difficulties of parenting small children.


Speaking of life stages, I recently saw an article (I'm not that motivated to find it again) about how we (middle aged and older female instructors) should eagerly embrace and encourage students to think of us as their grandparents (or grandmothers, more specifically) because students love their grandparents and will look on us with affection and trust and such.

Effing BS.  Most students don't need faculty to be grandparents to them.  Nor do they need me to be their mommy and wipe their noses.  They're ADULTS.  We need to treat them as adults, sure, young adults, but adults.  Don't infantalize students!

I don't love my students unconditionally.  Nope.  I respect them as human beings and adults.  And the more they demonstrate themselves worthy of respect in whatever ways they do, the more I recognize that they've earned my respect.


  1. YES. We're not their mamas, and we're sure as shit not their grannas. We're their teachers.

    Do male teachers get asked to be daddies and grandpas? I suspect not.

  2. The idea that "most professors" aren't this nice doesn't necessarily have any evidence to support it. It's a stereotype. When our culture thinks about college students in class, professors are the enemy. (Yes, mostly because we're stand-ins for their parents and the establishment, however unfair that image of us may be.)

  3. Amen to the idea that most of us are, indeed, reasonably flexible in such situations (I've actually never had a student bring a kid to class, but I'm open to it, in part because I have a close friend who went through college while raising kids on very little money).

    And to the idea that we're not their parents/grandparents. I'm not sure there's really all that much respect for elders among the current younger generation, and respect (and, yes, trust) is really what we need more than affection (and definitely what we need more that the sort of expectations of endless patience, indulgence, etc. that may go along with the idealized mother/grandmother figure).

    They do seem to feel something for Bernie Sanders, but I can't figure out quite what. I may well entail expecting an older adult to magically and quickly solve problems that have been decades in the making, and are now having real quality-of-life consequences for current young adults. I'm sympathetic to the argument that they didn't create these problems, and shouldn't have to solve them, but the reality is that they almost certainly will have to (just as past generations have had to solve the problems created by their ancestors, and future generations will undoubtedly have to solve the problems inevitably created by the present generation, no matter how good their intentions).