It is advising time again. This is the type of year when too many advisees show up to my office. While I help them register for classes, I try to squeeze in a little advice and guidance along the way.
Parenthood has changed me as an advisor. I used to be able to sit for hours while a student told me his/her troubles. They would come to our meeting with no idea of what classes to take the next semester; forget about them possessing a coherent life plan. Now, it’s almost like I have to keep a certain amount of patience and sympathy for my own children (when I eventually return home after the long advising hours), so I feel myself trying to mask my patience at their lack of preparedness.
In classes, too, I’ve noticed a shift. I still have a lower level of patience. One time, after a particularly rough week of trying to balance my children’s various illnesses and activities, teaching, and a publishing deadline, I was aghast when a student was trying to tell me she couldn’t hand in a paper on time because of some internship she was working at (for free). I finally said, “Don’t trouble me with your problems, just like I don’t trouble you with mine. You make choices. I make choices. Just live with them, but know the consequences.” Interestingly, the student LOVED me for this spontaneous tough-love approach. She said she liked that I applied a work ethic to the class.
Dawn Werner, a colleague of mine who specializes in building communication and professional skills among students, offers that I may have a broader “life view” approach. It’s true that I have less patience in the moment, but I also do empathize more with students’ personal struggles. In some ways, I’m more relaxed than my 14-year-younger former teaching self (a newbie), who once failed a brilliant student just on attendance alone. I think that, if that student were before me now, I’d see her larger life picture.
Some might say it isn’t parenting that has changed me, it’s simply life experience, but I do think parenting has shaped the way that I approach life. When I’m being curt to a student, I sometimes picture my own child’s face superimposed over that undergraduate. At other times, I just can’t take on students’ problems, because they are too close to the ones I need to deal with on my own. Has parenthood used up your reserves, or has it given you even more patience?
Read more by
Opinions on Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U
What Others Are Reading