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Old 01-06-2012, 11:45 AM   #16
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I want to scream into the phone, "Your kid is 18, cut the cord!" Even with the kids who don't like the helicoptering and are quite fine working things out on their own, the parents are still going at it.
At the college level this feels like a very recent development--when I first started teaching in the late 90s I can't recall intrusive parents ever being an issue, but as of the last several years, yeah, every year now at the beginning of the semester I'll have parents coming by my office "just to introduce themselves" (which usually quickly turns into them grilling me about my grading system, teaching philosophy etc.) and sometimes at semester's end I'll encounter them again, typically with a far less pleasant tenor, if their child hasn't done as well as expected. (And, yes, their children very often are the "But I included all the elements you said our paper had to have, so I deserve an A!" type.) I don't really mind this per se; it's just that it all feels so infantilizing towards the student, who after all is my first obligation, not them, so I feel uncomfortably caught between. Also, ask any prof who takes students abroad and I can virtually guarantee you'll hear at least a few exasperated anecdotes about students who were too preoccupied with their 'digital umbilicals' to get off their butts and throw themselves out into Paris or Mumbai or Mexico City and actually have the experiences they presumably came there to have. They're born networkers and that's something, for sure, but perhaps a bit worrisomely passive in other ways.

When consulting at universities in mainland China a couple years back, I many times heard complaints from profs and administrators about a somewhat similar-sounding phenomenon, where all kinds of student life issues are cropping up on campuses now that they never had before--students' traditional deference to elders remains largely intact, but their social skills with peers seem much weaker in certain ways; for example, fighting, from protracted verbal spats to violent physical confrontations, has apparently become quite common, whereas it used to be unheard of. Over and over I heard this attributed to the one-child policy--that kids were arriving in college psychologically ill-equipped to share space, time and possessions with peers because they've never really had to do it before. I can't vouch for that myself though.
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Old 01-06-2012, 12:11 PM   #17
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I don't really mind this per se; it's just that it all feels so infantilizing towards the student, who after all is my first obligation, not them, so I feel uncomfortably caught between.
I feel this too. Often the student and I are giving each other subtle glances and winks that communicate "My mom is freaking out because I'm leaving the nest!"...." I know, I get it, just let her say her piece".... In their defense, quite often the kids aren't really that bad, they don't depend on the parents like the parents seem to think (or want). We recognize that during the times we have contact with them (over the summer when they are required to do orientation, and at the start of the school year), it is a hard time for the parents giving up their "baby" so we try to be sensitive and hear them out at these times of the year. However I lack patience when the parents are calling all year long about this or that, when the student is capable of calling us or even coming over since we are open all day every day, and I can't resolve issues or do any sort of troubleshooting through a parent that might be 1500 miles away and has no clue what's actually going on, not to mention that I am often bound by FERPA and HIPAA and any number of laws that protect a student's right to privacy.

It just amazes me because I am 27 an started college in 2002 so our current students are not a different generation. My mom never did these things for me. She never even came to the parent orientations and only came to help me move in b/c she wanted to chat with my roommate's mom. The thought of my mom coming to the computer HelpDesk with me and my laptop just makes me laugh. I did print out my grades for her but would never give her my password to the online portal. This was just fine for me, college was my gig. She would have just been in the way. I have noticed she is a lot more involved in my younger sister's college life (sister is 5 years younger) though that's probably also because she is the youngest and she's always been more clingy/dependent.
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Old 01-06-2012, 01:13 PM   #18
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This is a really interesting topic and I've enjoyed reading through it.

I too work in a school (high school, junior through to senior) although with not quite two years under my belt am relatively new to it all. I am also a parent with one of my kids due to start her senior high school years this year and two boys about to commence in their first year of high school.

The point made a little earlier about resilience is the one that really strikes a chord with me.

I am constantly struck dumb by the number of parents who want to hold teachers, peers, anyone except their child, responsible for any disappointing grades their child may have received.

You expect to hear from parents of students in their early years of high school as some of those kids do have a hard time adjusting to the new routines that high school introduces.

But once your child is in senior high school, to my mind that child should be a good way towards finding their own voice and working out how to navigate the relationship between teacher and student to maximise their learning and their grades. How else are they going to find their way in the bad ole world if they don't learn to deal with all different manner of people? Parents should be a last resort once the student has explored all of the other options open to her / them.

One of my daughters (now) favourite teachers, and subsequently one of her mentors, is a woman my daughter was terrified of initially ~ my daughter begged me to ask for a different class for this particular subject but I refused because I knew this woman was a fantastic teacher who, despite being a little gruff, always elicited great results for her students. This woman is tough, granted, but her students all come to realise that she is fair ~ she doesn't demand a class room full of A grade students, but she does demand that each student produce her best work and pushes them to that goal and she pushes the girls to take responsibility for their work, good or bad. We usually receive a bunch of phone calls from complaining parents in the first few weeks of the year about this teacher but most parents see the results and stop their whinging eventually! Most.

I do know that the more money a school charges for tuition etc the more the parents seem to feel entitled to push their weight around (some of my colleagues have worked in schools that charge upwards of $15 - 20 k per year in fees and have regaled me with numerous horror stories about over zealous parents trying to manage every aspect of their proteges lives ) ~ maybe this is part of the reason for the upsurge in the number of parents who are continuing to micro-manage their kids lives through to the College years as well?
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Old 01-06-2012, 02:28 PM   #19
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I do know that the more money a school charges for tuition etc the more the parents seem to feel entitled to push their weight around (some of my colleagues have worked in schools that charge upwards of $15 - 20 k per year in fees and have regaled me with numerous horror stories about over zealous parents trying to manage every aspect of their proteges lives ) ~ maybe this is part of the reason for the upsurge in the number of parents who are continuing to micro-manage their kids lives through to the College years as well?
I certainly agree this is part of it. I work at a small, private college. Costs about $30K/yr to attend. The school my aunt works at (where the dad insisted his third grader be in the same classroom with all her best friends) is a private elementary school and costs $6080/yr (price for one kid, grades 1-8). My husband Phil teaches at a different private elementary school and has had parents come in and try to teach his class. He has parents who e-mail him every day.

These kids have great educations with every opportunity but are almost helpless on their own. Phil says he sees it in his classroom in things like working out basic math problems. The kids have zero problem solving and critical thinking skills, they expect the teacher to spoon feed everything.
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Old 01-06-2012, 03:17 PM   #20
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At the college level this feels like a very recent development--when I first started teaching in the late 90s I can't recall intrusive parents ever being an issue, but as of the last several years, yeah, every year now at the beginning of the semester I'll have parents coming by my office "just to introduce themselves" (which usually quickly turns into them grilling me about my grading system, teaching philosophy etc.) and sometimes at semester's end I'll encounter them again, typically with a far less pleasant tenor, if their child hasn't done as well as expected. (And, yes, their children very often are the "But I included all the elements you said our paper had to have, so I deserve an A!" type.) I don't really mind this per se; it's just that it all feels so infantilizing towards the student, who after all is my first obligation, not them, so I feel uncomfortably caught between.
I can't think of a single person who I went to college with whose parents insisted on or even attempted to personally meet professors for any reason whatever (it might occasionally have happened the other way around, in the case of exceptionally bad behaviour by a student), except maybe in the context of the informal setting of graduation celebrations. When I went to college, in the early 1990s, if your parents were sighted entering into conferences with lecturers, you'd be the target of instant slagging from classmates. It just wouldn't be viewed as a good look at all.
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Old 01-06-2012, 03:24 PM   #21
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I went to a private high school (in the 90s) that was probably the most hyper competitive environment I have still ever been in. A kind of aggressive ambition drilled in from every angle. It was reflected in the parents, who all wanted 'in' and influence to further fuel their kids success, but they were very strictly locked out of having any. You got your standard meeting with teachers twice a year along with everyone else, and for any other issues, it's your sons problem, and he should man the fuck up, basically.
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Old 01-06-2012, 03:35 PM   #22
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These kids have great educations with every opportunity but are almost helpless on their own. Phil says he sees it in his classroom in things like working out basic math problems. The kids have zero problem solving and critical thinking skills, they expect the teacher to spoon feed everything.
Critical thinking skills, as I understand the phrase, for children aged 6-11 sounds a bit much, TBH.
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Old 01-06-2012, 05:04 PM   #23
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I work at a university in a non academic role and deal with parents ALL THE TIME. I've even dealt with parents of graduate students. I have no issue talking about billing matters with them, since for the most part, they are paying the bills. But it's all the other stuff that's annoying.

I recently had a parent in with her son where for 45 minutes she argued with me about an issue that I feel was caused by her overprotectiveness. The kid said maybe 2 words the entire time. I've also been on phone calls with parents where I'll ask for some info and they yell to the student who's in the same room. This has happened with some graduates as well.

I find the biggest problem I deal with is saying no to people. Many of these young adults have never had to deal with not getting what they want. And Mom and Dad instead of using this as a life lesson, try to bully their way into getting little Buffy exactly what she wants.
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Old 01-06-2012, 06:03 PM   #24
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i think when it comes to parents, about 80% of them are just fine. it's that 20% that make up 80% of your exasperation when you work with kids.

i think 100% try their best.

i also think stories like this, while anecdotally "true," are also always true and will always be true and were true 50 years ago and will be true 50 years in the future.
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Old 01-06-2012, 11:48 PM   #25
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Critical thinking skills, as I understand the phrase, for children aged 6-11 sounds a bit much, TBH.
We're talking word problems like "Tom has five crayons and he gives Sally three. Sally already had two crayons. How many crayons do Tom and Sally have?" The kids are struggling with anything more than one layer deep (like 1+1=2).
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Old 01-06-2012, 11:52 PM   #26
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I work at a university in a non academic role and deal with parents ALL THE TIME. I've even dealt with parents of graduate students. I have no issue talking about billing matters with them, since for the most part, they are paying the bills. But it's all the other stuff that's annoying.

I recently had a parent in with her son where for 45 minutes she argued with me about an issue that I feel was caused by her overprotectiveness. The kid said maybe 2 words the entire time. I've also been on phone calls with parents where I'll ask for some info and they yell to the student who's in the same room. This has happened with some graduates as well.

I find the biggest problem I deal with is saying no to people. Many of these young adults have never had to deal with not getting what they want. And Mom and Dad instead of using this as a life lesson, try to bully their way into getting little Buffy exactly what she wants.
Do you work with me? lol I had one parent tell me I needed to help her and give her the daughter's password because the daughter is a full time student *shock* and doesn't have time to deal with it. Funny, since I know for a fact there are minimum 10 minute breaks between regular classes and a 40 minute break every morning from 9:50-10:30. Our office is in the absolute middle of campus, which is small and all the buildings besides residence halls or sports facilities are together in the middle. Plus I don't buy that a freshman is in class M-F from 7:30-5pm. That would be like a 25 credit hour semester. Oh and we are available by phone, e-mail, and Facebook all day for those too lazy to roll out of their dorm room and walk the 1/16 of a mile.

I had another call that was almost too crazy to be true. Our passwords expire every year (well, mine every 90 days for PCI compliance b/c I have access to credit card machines). This girl's expired like normal and she called begging us to not do that. Not possible, totally automated, we have security standards we have to adhere to. She got real quiet and then started crying, saying her mom was really strict and made her give her all her passwords and told her she was never allowed to change them. I actually felt bad for her but there's nothing I can do. I told her she can have her mom call me and I will verify our policies (and probably transfer her to our information security officer).
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Old 01-07-2012, 07:33 AM   #27
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We had a ''new math'' program that was implemented while I was in grade school here in Canada during the 1990s.

Kids in primary school regularly were taught critical thinking in math through chess problems and building grids to find the answer to logical questions.

This was in addition to regular arithmetic and I credit it towards having a great ability to work through complex problems now as a young adult. Every primary school should introduce students to chess and lateral thinking, more broadly-speaking.

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Old 01-07-2012, 08:33 AM   #28
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I don't think helicopter is a strong enough word...
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Old 01-07-2012, 09:52 AM   #29
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I went to a private high school (in the 90s) that was probably the most hyper competitive environment I have still ever been in. A kind of aggressive ambition drilled in from every angle. It was reflected in the parents, who all wanted 'in' and influence to further fuel their kids success, but they were very strictly locked out of having any. You got your standard meeting with teachers twice a year along with everyone else, and for any other issues, it's your sons problem, and he should man the fuck up, basically.
On a sidenote, there's usually a very intense cutthroat atmosphere in several high schools where the competition to get good grades gets beyond what's sane and humane. As usual, high schools located in wealthy areas are more prone to posses this environment compared to schools in low-income areas.

It's also alarming to see the large number of kids that burnout because of parents' pressure and status for their kids to go a to fancy college. Once they graduate, they realize how badly they have wasted their time just by studying like crazy 24/7 during 4 years of high school or college, or eight if you combine both, instead of focusing their time on what they truly want to do and work towards an idea/goal of making that dream come alive.

Education is meant to enrich the mind, become a better person, and reflect that on your personality, thinking, and work. However, it is today another status symbol that at an extreme case can prevent students from achieving what they want to do, the completely opposite effect from the status quo.
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Old 01-11-2012, 12:31 PM   #30
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i think when it comes to parents, about 80% of them are just fine. it's that 20% that make up 80% of your exasperation when you work with kids.

i think 100% try their best.

i also think stories like this, while anecdotally "true," are also always true and will always be true and were true 50 years ago and will be true 50 years in the future.
I love the sentiment and hope of those first two sentences and am going to keep it by my phone when I head back to work in just over a week.

And while I agree with your last point I do believe there has been a shift in what parents seem to now hold teachers responsible for (but perhaps that is another topic for discussion altogether) and the idea that that schools and families work together to reach the best outcome for their children isn't necessarily on top of the parents agenda in some cases.

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On a sidenote, there's usually a very intense cutthroat atmosphere in several high schools where the competition to get good grades gets beyond what's sane and humane. As usual, high schools located in wealthy areas are more prone to posses this environment compared to schools in low-income areas.

It's also alarming to see the large number of kids that burnout because of parents' pressure and status for their kids to go a to fancy college. Once they graduate, they realize how badly they have wasted their time just by studying like crazy 24/7 during 4 years of high school or college, or eight if you combine both, instead of focusing their time on what they truly want to do and work towards an idea/goal of making that dream come alive.

Education is meant to enrich the mind, become a better person, and reflect that on your personality, thinking, and work. However, it is today another status symbol that at an extreme case can prevent students from achieving what they want to do, the completely opposite effect from the status quo.
I agree that it is crazy and that education should focus on what is best for the students but most private schools / college are, essentially, businesses after all.

With regards to your last point about education being a status symbol, I believe that it has always been so; how else to explain the waiting lists and jockeying for favour that exists in some of the older more renowned schools the world over? (A couple of high schools in our local area receive phone calls from parents on the day their daughters/sons are born to place them on a waiting list for the year blah blah . . . and usually the call is placed by the mama from her hospital bed )
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