Saturday, December 17, 2005

When Do You Stop?

<begin rant>

I got a call from Number One Daughter yesterday at work. I was in the middle of proofing pages and pages of mind-numbing data, but stopped to talk because she sounded distraught.

NOD had just taken her astronomy final. She has to take a year of science, and she chose astronomy which pretty much equals physics, and has been struggling with it. But she studied her brains out for the final, and thought she aced it, so why was she upset?

Because she had signed up for the second semester of this class with the same professor, only to find out afterwards that he had switched times and wouldn't be teaching the section she signed up for, but another one which was already filled up.

So why was she upset? Because after struggling for the entire semester, she finally has this guy's teaching style down, understands him, and feels she can learn from him, rather than from the old retired guy who hasn't taught in a few centuries they had brought in to teach the session she'd signed up for.

So why was she upset? "You might love this guy more than the one you have," I said.

She talked. I listened. And got convinced that this request—to keep the same teacher—especially when the sign-up system is wrong and still has the wrong professor listed for the wrong times—didn't seem way out of line to me.

So, I called.

I never call. N-E-V-E-R. You're in college. You deal. I don't jump in and Fix Things.

But this time, I just thought, this is such a little thing, such a small request, such an honest request, a request that will make such a difference in the life of one struggling non-science science student. NOD had already been to the astronomy office to request a change, and got totally blown off. So she had tried, and failed.

She didn't ask me to, but I did. I called the chair of the department. Who told me he didn't understand what the problem was, after I explained it twice. I had to ask him "Which part are you having trouble with?" He said he was sorry my daughter was such a POOR STUDENT, and man, I was off. "Poor student?? WHO SAID SHE WAS A POOR STUDENT?? I just told you she had a hard time with this class and struggled through it, and just pulled off an 'A.'" Him: "She has to learn how to accept change. These kids play these games all the time. [????] You can't always get what you want. [Yes he actually said that.] We don't guarantee anything. Life is not fair. [Insert platitude here.]"

You know what? I know all that. I teach occasionally for a living. And you know what else? NOD has been dealing with change and "life is not fair" all her life. "Surely," I said to him, "surely you know, as do I, a fellow professor, that some kids do better with certain professors than others. Surely you are not telling me you do not know this? NOD does not really need to learn that life is unfair. She's pretty much had that lesson shoved down her throat since she was born. Can we save that lesson for another time?"

Round and round we went. He was on auto-pilot, I swear, reading from a script. Me: "Well, I'm sorry you cannot have a bit of compassion here and since you are having so much trouble understanding students, who do I talk to next?" He said, oh-so-maddeningly calmly, "Well, you should call the Dean," knowing full well the Dean will Stick to the Rules.

So I put a call into the Dean, who, funnily enough, was not "in" at 4:50 p.m. on a Friday. I left a message.

I know, I know. I should have let her work this out herself. I know, this is not a Big Important Problem. I know, if this is her worst problem, life is pretty good.

But sometimes, ya know, just once in a while, can we just break a Rule and respond to one student's need with Compassion? Please? Especially when you are a Catholic college? Charging a huge chunk of change?

No, I'm guessing not.

Life is unfair.



LouBob said...

I wish I'd have had a mother like you waaaay back when I was in school! I agree with you, life is unfair.

Anonymous said...

This is so infuriating! What a caricatural mean old jerk >:-(

Rae said...

Hmmm, so I take it this guy will be dressing up as the Grinch this year. What a jerk. I say you should let the air out of his tires to teach him a little bit about unfair life challenges....

Black Knight said...

What a wonderful and helpful mom! I am sure that the jerk is like the guys who well hidden, during the races, cut the distances to drop the time! Have a look around, you will see him before the start!!

21st Century Mom said...

Aw shucks - what great Mom. I wanted to call the University my daughter just graduated from so many times and complain of things - especially about the class that was 'taught' by 2 grad students who had no skills and were totally disorganized. I never did, though because she wouldn't let me. (Does NOD know you called yet?)

So note - she just graduated! She made it! She's got a sheepskin!!

When will I stop wanting to run interference for her? Never. It will never happen.

a.maria said...

thats a load of bullsh*t. besides the obvious, the thing of it is, is that on the first day of that class, i can guarantee there'll be someone that doesnt show.... there by creating an opening for NOD.

omg. the b.s. of head up their arses professors like that is something i will never understand.

i'm with rae. let the air out of his tires!!

Anonymous said...

Ryan said ...

I'm with a.maria (anna?) ... that's some typical bureacratic nonsense and NOD should sit in on the first day of class, and the second, and the third. Furthermore, she should also talk to the Professor and work up a holy fire-and-brimstone rage towards the registrar. One of my role models in college fought every quarter for four years for her financial aid. Every single time they tried to knock it down on her, and every single time she went to the mat and fought them and yelled and scremaed and sent email after email after email spewing vitriol ... and every single time she won, and never paid the school a dime. While that's annoying as hell to have to do, the lesson is: Make it more worth their time to accomodate you than to deny you. There's no reason he can't fudge this one a bit, so make his life miserable until he realizes its more worth his while to help than to do nothing. I think it's awesome that you yelled at this guy and you should yell at the Dean too. After all, isn't the point of all of this and all your money ... to help the kid learn?

ps ... NOD needs to learn how to yell more.

m said...

Here's my story with a small Catholic college. My mother died on a Monday (all my teachers knew about this) I went home that day and returned Sunday. That Monday my soc teacher gave us a test, since I didn't get to class the past Monday (b/c my mother had died I did not know about this test) I figured I would take the test another day. Nope, made me take the test that day and I got an F (for midterms) and I was a senior and if I failed this stupid class I didn't graduate. I pleaded my case with her and my counseler and they could of cared less. I managed to get the grade up to a B or C, but the whole thing to this day pisses me off. I agree with above. It pays to scream every once in awhile to get what you want in life.

Good luck with it all.

jeanne said...

M: OMG!!!! You should post the name of that idiot professor! And the college! What is it with Catholics?!?

In retrospect, I think I should have just waited it out. Ah, well, live and learn. Shockingly, no one has called me back from her school, despite my leaving TWO messages friday nite. Probably for the best. I'm gonna officially step back from this one, and let her deal. Now that i've screwed it all up!!

Kiran said...

Way to go Jeanne, I'm so glad you went out on a limb for your daughter. I would fight tooth and nail for my kids if they needed it, just like you did. I hate those tenured profs who could care less, they should be interested in their students and not just counting sown the days to retirement :(

Susan said...

What a butthead.