Thursday, October 08, 2009

An Open Letter to the Mom who contacted the Provost to complain because her son had to take an evening exam in my Stats class

Dear Mom,

I understand that you have been communicating with the Provost here at [my university] about my course policies. I hope you don't mind if I inject myself into the conversation.

First, I hope that you understand that I view evening exams as a benefit for the students. For one thing, having the exam in the evening gives me more class time for review. The Stats exam was Thursday evening, and on Thursday morning, we spent most of the class reviewing. I'm sure that this helped consolidate the students' understanding, and led to better scores on the exam. The other thing is that an evening exam is untimed. Stats class is one hour and 18 minutes. I had people who took close to two hours on that exam. Since they weren't rushed, they had time to consider their answers, and to find and correct their mistakes. This also undoubtedly helped their scores.

Evening exams are actually not easy from me. I have to take time away from my family, and spend up to fourteen hours at work. I'll do that seven times this semester in my various classes. I do not get paid extra to do this. I do it because I think it's best for the students.

The second thing I want to tell you is that I do know that students can have conflicts. They have other classes. They have jobs. They have personal commitments, ranging from parenting their own kids to practicing for the intramural dodge ball tournament. I recognize these conflicts, and I always give my students the opportunity to arrange another time for the exam. Students in that stats class took the exam as early as Wednesday afternoon, and as late as the following Monday. If [Stu] had asked, I would gladly have arranged for a better time for him to take the exam.

The thing that I most want to stress is that I am seriously offended by the way you have attempted to handle this issue. I understand that you are a faculty member at [your university], and I can't believe that you welcome conversations about your course policies between parents and your chief academic officer that don't even involve you.

If [Stu] has a question about my course policies, he is more than welcome to come talk to me about them. I am very open about the reasons behind my policies, many of which were developed from years of experience. If [Stu] and I couldn't agree on something, he would have the option of talking to my department chair. If he was still unsatisfied, he could talk to the dean, and then, and only then, should he talk to the Provost.

Note that I said "he". You really don't belong in this conversation at all. [Stu] is an adult, and you aren't doing him any favors by running interference for him. He is old enough to make his own choices and his own mistakes. At this point, your job as a parent is to give him advice if he'll sit still to listen to it. But you should not be trying to fix his problems. That cannot end well.

For what it's worth, I think [Stu] will be fine. I talked to him after the exam about what had gone wrong. He is one of the few student in any of my classes who initiated this conversation. We talked about some of his mistakes, and made plans for preparing for the next exam. The issue of the exam time never came up, by which I infer that he really doesn't think it's that big a problem.

I acknowledge your right to be concerned about [Stu], but I really think that you need to back off and let him handle his course load by himself.


Prof. Jogger


So what do you think, JogAmericaBlog fans? This woman has not actually contacted me at all, and my Provost pretty much backed me up. Should I find out her e-mail address and send this, or should I be content to vent anonymously on a blog that almost no one reads?


Anonymous said...

Dear Nephew:
I think that you should send the letter, it is well written and explains your position. By the way Late happy birthday. I completely bleeped over yours, sorry. I have 2 family anniversaries and a birthday in the same time frame.
Uncle Not A.s

Anonymous said...

Ok. Now that you have vented, let it go. If you have talked to Stu(dent?) you have done what needed to be done. As a retired professor, I sympathize, but don't take her silly actions personally!
As a mother who would defend my cub, though perhaps not in that particular way, I think any further contact with Professor Jogger would not be welcome or beneficial.
A. Mom

Anonymous said...

Hi Profesor Jogger!
I think you should let it go. You will never convince her. Congratulations on a well thought out response, though. It is a pleasure to hear from you about the trials of interacting with the public. - Aunt Karen