Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rate Your Student's Parent

Oh, this is classic stuff.

Rate Your Students posted a letter from a parent complaining about how some mean professor made her kid go to class on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, followed up by a collection of a dozen rants from various professors responding to this parent. Go read them yourself. They are worth every minute.

UPDATE: There are even more replies in a final ? collection.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Milo takes on the student as customer argument. About the only thing he left out was a concern for the OTHER customers in the classroom. I can never figure out why they don't get mentioned.

They really make my day because it reminds me of how well off I am. I had 80% attendance* in my WEDNESDAY afternoon class ... the class day after I gave an exam! I actually have students in my classes who want to learn! No attendance policy, no attendance grade, no extra credit, just physics. Even my "C" students make me proud to have them in my class. Gotta remember to tell them that on Monday. Anyway, back to our little College Drama.

The Parent is "mighty pissed" that Offspring's professor will penalize students for skipping class, and can't imagine why Out of State University wouldn't want to keep the Parental $$$$ Source happy ... by not educating the Student?

Actually, my guess is that the professor either (a) has an attendance penalty every day and Student can't afford to incur any more of them at this point in the semester or (b) is actually offering extra credit for showing up, extra credit that Student desperately needs to have a tiny chance of passing the class, but Student is not about to tell Checkbook Parent the real reason even if there are hints that Parent suspects Offspring is not like my students.

But go read it for yourself, then come back for my answers to the Parent's Meme:

  • Do you ever think about the folks who essentially pay your salaries?
I think all the time about the citizens of my state, doing my best to avoid graduating any 'students' who would make incompetent engineers whose bridges would fall down. (One way of looking at the economics of a state-funded CC is to say that the state appropriation pays the full-time tenured faculty whose salaries are a recurring cost, while tuition pays for the part-time faculty and other staff that would be eliminated if our enrollment were to fall suddenly. However, our state appropriation also depends on enrollment, so it is not that simple.) As for the students who pay their way, or their parents, I certainly want them to get their money's worth from my class. To me, that happens to mean teaching a great class the day before Thanksgiving rather than shortchanging them by cutting class myself. (And it was a great class. I think I set just the right tone for the key material we get to in the last week of class. We'll see on Monday, but I expect to see them ready to rock when they get back.)
  • Do you have any feelings for your "employers" and their offspring (besides contempt ?)
You Betcha! I've gladly posed for graduation pictures with former students, and enjoy hearing from them after they transfer to Engineering school. I rarely complain about the ones who come to class. I even feel sorry for those Parents whose slacker Snowflakes sign up for my class and never bother to attend.
  • I mean, do you like being a College Professor ? (I admit it, I read just some of the blog...)
I can see why you might get the wrong impression from "Rate Your Students" or other stories you see on some of my favorite blogs. Those faculty are venting their displeasure with the small (and, sometimes, not so small) group of students that enroll in classes but are not Students. Fooled by an 89 average in HS, because they don't know that an 89 is actually below average among their fellow HS grads planning to go to college, they think showing up will guarantee a B, or at least a C. They never hear my orientation warning to new students. We genuinely like most of our students, although we can do without their Helicopter Parents. You can also see what I really think of my students at many places in my blog, but particularly in this old article. I will agree that some faculty, particularly untenured professors at a research university, think undergrad students just get in the way of doing their main job, which is winning research grants and publishing papers. But you can hardly blame them, since they get paid to do that, not teach.
  • Can you honestly tell me that we are getting our money's worth, or do you teach to support your_______________ habit ?
I work for my Health Insurance habit. But seriously, I can honestly tell you that some Parents are not getting their money's worth. I see their Offspring show up in a basket on my classroom doorstep after they drink and party their way out of Wannabe Flagship, only to cut my class and fail to learn either physics or the lesson they should have learned the first time they flunked out. But it's not my fault their Offspring don't want to learn. It's their kid's fault. I can't make them attend class, nor can you, which means you are not getting your money's worth out of your kid.

Parent closed with "Here's hoping you get that well deserved rest you need over the Thanksgiving break...", to which I reply that I will still be grading exams and lab reports, just like I do on most weekends. My work really starts when my student's work ends.

* Percentage measured relative to the number of students who took the exam during the previous class meeting, not the number originally enrolled. My retention is pretty good this year, not that good!

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