Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More conversations during an office hour

All your fault

“You know it's going to be your fault if our son loses his chance at an athletic scholarship!”

“Listen, sir. I can't talk to you about your son's academic record. He's an adult and there are privacy rules we have to respect.”

“That's bogus crap! We're his parents. Boy! Tell your teacher to talk to us! Tell him to talk to your mom and me!”

“Uh, prof, it's okay for you to talk to my parents.”

“You don't have to waive your privacy rights, you know.”

“No, it's okay. I want to. Talk to my mom and dad. Please talk to them.”

“You heard that, right? Now talk to us!”

“Okay. Since your son has given his consent, I will tell you that he is unlikely to pass the class.”

“So what you are going to do about it?”

“I'm sorry, ma'am, but it's not my job to do anything about it. It's your son's job to do the work necessary to pass the class. Unfortunately, the final is next week and he needs something like a perfect score to earn a passing grade. I don't see that happening.”

“But you're the teacher! If you would just teach him what he needs to know for the final exam he can graduate and transfer to a real college—a college with an athletic scholarship waiting for him.”

“Begging your pardon, sir, teaching your son what he needs to know is exactly what I've been trying to do all semester, but it's hard to do when he's not there.”

Dammit! He's an athlete! He has to practice! He's busy! It's your job to make sure he passes!”

“Did you tell your parents you had to miss your math class to practice with your teammates? Is that what you said?”

“Uh. Yeah. Something like that.”

“Have you and your parents talked to your coach yet?”

“No. Not yet.”

“So your coach hasn't had a chance to tell them about athletic counseling and scheduling?”

“Why the hell does that matter? So what if he hasn't taken us to see his coach yet? It's your class that's causing all the trouble. You are the guy who needs to fix it!”

“Sorry, but we're done here. Take your boy to see his coach. The coach can tell you that every student athlete is assigned a sports counselor who makes sure he or she gets enrolled in classes that don't conflict with practice hours and game times. It'll be a very educational conversation for you.”

Restraining disorder

Ahem.... Excuse me.”

“Yes? Oh. Hello. What are you doing here?”

“Yeah, sorry. I need a signature.”

“Excuse me for bringing this up, but you're not supposed to be here.”

“Yeah, sorry. I know. But I need the signature of my last math teacher on this form so that I can be a tutor.”

“Okay, I see. But I don't think that's a good enough excuse for ignoring the dean's order not to communicate with me in any way.”

“But this is a special case.”

“That's what you said the last time and the dean of students suspended you for violating the order.”

“Sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it. Sorry. I'll just go away.”

“Is that the tutoring form in your hand?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Give it here. I'll sign this so you can be a math tutor in the student assistance center, but you can't come back again. I'll have to report this to the dean of students, you know.”

“Sorry. Really sorry. But the form says to get the signature of my most recent math teacher. I was just following instructions.”

“Yes, I know. But I think the dean's ban on any communication at all take precedence. If anything like this comes up in the future—and I mean anything—go to the department chair or the math dean instead. Anything I can do, they can do. Okay?”

“Okay. Sorry.”

“You can stop apologizing now. But stop coming back. The dean of students won't listen to any excuses. Here's your tutoring form.”

“Thank you. I'll go now.”

“Yes, that would be best.”

11 comments:

Eamon Knight said...

“Listen, sir. I can't talk to you about your son's academic record. He's an adult and there are privacy rules we have to respect.”

At the welcoming assembly for my son's college (from which he has now graduated Summa Cum Laude no less 8-)), the MC mentioned the rule about confidentiality and waivers w.r.t. students over 18, and some father in the audience immediately wanted to know where he could get the form. It struck us as....sort of anal-retentive.

Are we just easy-going parents? Or are American parents in general more protective and controlling of their college kids than Canadians?

Shygetz said...

Are we just easy-going parents? Or are American parents in general more protective and controlling of their college kids than Canadians?

That father may just know his kid. Some kids do great when you just turn them loose on the world...and some don't.

Yoo said...

If the student was forbidden to contact you because of some unspeakable sin, and he or she did so anyways, was it really a good idea for him or her tutoring someone?

Zeno said...

Yoo, the student was a stalker. The dean of students had suspended her for harassment because she would compulsively haunt her former teacher's office hours, flood his e-mail with weird pleas, and even send things to his home address. Surprisingly enough, the incident reported in this post was indeed her last violation of the ban. No problems were reported with her performance as a tutor in the assistance center. It was all focused on the one math teacher.

Zeno said...

Eamon, I'm amazed that anyone would even mention confidentiality and waivers at a welcoming assembly. That's just asking for trouble, which is sure to arise (witness the father you cited).

Shygetz: Certainly many students do better (even if they're college students) if their parents take an interest in their work and encourage them. However, the parents in the case of the failing athlete had obviously waited till the last minute to get involved and merely wanted the math prof to "fix" things. Their son's academic work ethic was apparently irrelevant.

unapologetic said...

Yeah, that stalking thing sounds like a buried lede to me. That's where the real story is.

Rogue Medic said...

With the last minute parents, I was expecting this to go in an entirely different way.

I expected you to tell them that if a passing math grade is required for his scholarship, he has not been adequately preparing to obtain this scholarship.

If they felt this scholarship was so important, why are they only just now exhibiting an interest in the requirements for the scholarship?

You could also suggest that they try the same argument with those who award the scholarship - “You know it's going to be your fault if our son loses his chance at an athletic scholarship!”

Are they suggesting that he should take the scholarship away from a student who has actually done the work to meet the requirements? Do they really want to engage in fraud and show their child that crime pays?

Zeno said...

You're right, Unapologetic. The stalker story has a lot more to it. We've had a couple of those around the math department. Perhaps I'll say more about them later.

Zeno said...

Rogue Medic, I don't know all of the details because the student in question was a colleague's not mine. As I had the story from him, the parents were putting all the blame on the instructor, not their son the student. He and I both suspected that the boy had been getting easy C's and perhaps some of them were even gifts. (We used to have one faculty member who was especially easy-going on athletes. There was a bit of a crisis when he retired!)

My colleague had not heard one peep out of the parents all semester, but he had heard from the athletic counselor, who wanted to know how the boy was doing. I think the student got read the riot act when my colleague told the counselor that the boy was missing class. However, the student's attendance did not improve and at some point the parents found out he wasn't passing. Their solution was to try to browbeat the teacher into "fixing" things. It didn't work, obviously.

Rogue Medic said...

Nice to hear that there is still some integrity. Thank you for the update. :-)

Theo Bromine said...

quoth Shygetz:

Some kids do great when you just turn them loose on the world...and some don't.

Granted, but if a kid is *really* ready for college, I would expect them to be willing to voluntarily share their academic information as necessary. I have always considered the purpose of adolescence/highschool age is for parents to gradually hand over control to their kids (while still providing support), such that the kids are evenutally ready to be on their own, and can figure out when to rely on their own resources and when to call for help.

(The downside of this approach is that the parents need to accept the fact that every kid will occasionally make a bad choice - hopefully they (the kids) learn about how to choose well when the consequences are less severe.)