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If You Need Your Mother To Do It For You, You’re Probably Not Ready

, , , , , , , | Learning Related | June 23, 2022

Many years ago, I received a call from a new college student’s mother.

Mother: “Hello, is this Professor [My Name]?”

Me: “Yes, it is.”

Mother: “Oh, good! I wanted to talk to you about getting my son into your class.”

This particular class is a 300-level course, meaning that it’s unusual for incoming freshmen to take it. They generally wait until their sophomore or junior year. As registration takes place in the order of credits earned, the class is generally full by the time freshmen begin registration. I should also mention that I do have the flexibility to permit extra students into the class if need be. While students often contact me about being added to a full class, it’s unusual for a student’s parent to call about getting into a class (though not unknown).

Me: “I’m sorry, but that class is full.”

Mother: “I know. And my son was so disappointed. He wants to be a [major I teach in] and was so excited to get started with your class.”

Me: “Typically, new students will start with their general education classes. I don’t have many incoming freshmen taking this class. It’s also a challenging class and may not be the best way for him to start a college career.”

Mother: “Oh, I know he can handle it. He did so well in high school in similar classes, and he was so disheartened that he couldn’t take your class. He was just so sad about it. Couldn’t you let him into the class? He would do so well in it.”

We went the rounds with me trying to be respectful to this woman (she was persistent but polite), and her just repeating her assertions about her son’s disappointment and his readiness for the class and the major associated with it.

Finally, against my better judgment, I gave in. I added him to my class. When the semester began, he showed up (it’s a small class) and was very quiet. He didn’t seem particularly engaged with the material but attended faithfully… for about the first month. His performance on tests was poor, and eventually, he started attending sporadically and then stopped altogether. He got an F in the class and dropped out of college completely after the first semester.

I don’t know if it would have made any difference in the end, but I do wish I had followed my instincts on this — for both our sakes.

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