Wednesday, October 25, 2017
On an average day in my office critiquing a student’s essay, the phone rang and I picked it up saying hello. The caller identified himself but I was unsure about who he was. I asked him to kindly repeat the name. He repeated his name and qualified it by saying I am the parent of law student XYZ. I then immediately recognized who the person on the other end of the phone was. I had met this parent and his daughter prior to the start of the semester. At that time, we had an interesting conversation and he asked me to “look out” for his daughter as she began her law school journey. Once I recalled the earlier conversation, we proceeded to have a fruitful phone conversation during which the parent highlighted information from recent conversations with his daughter. He said that his daughter mentioned that I was very helpful to her, the various programs offered by my office were of great assistance and significantly contributed to her smooth transition to law school. The parent further indicated that the phone call was to thank me for all I had done thus far for his daughter. I was shocked and equally touched probably because I have never before had such a conversation with the parent of a student other than at graduation when the law school journey is over. This very brief conversation with the parent reconfirmed a fundamental reason for enjoying what I get to do.
I have heard the many conversations about undergraduate “helicopter parents” and how they are progressively becoming graduate and professional school “helicopter parents” but as an academic support professional, I have not yet fully experienced this phenomenon. Moreover, I would not characterize my interaction with this parent as “helicopter parent” in nature. I do not see how a parent’s expression of gratitude is comparable to a parent who might have excessive and overprotective interest in their child’s life. If I were interacting with a helicopter parent, I would expect to receive regular phone calls or email messages and would be peppered with questions, suggestions, and expectations.
We do not always reflect on the impact we have on the students we interact with. I must admit that I do get into the groove of the semester and perform certain tasks on autopilot as I manage each and every task, situation, or challenge. I may be on autopilot but I am well aware of the unique needs of individual students. I must admit that I can be quite demanding of certain students, especially when I see their potential and communicate it to them, as some students require a more tactful approach and a few more words of encouragement. How I engage with students may vary based on what I know about the student, what motivates them, what keeps them going, and what they need to be redirected and/or re-energized. Appreciation, recognition, and gratitude are all motivating factors that are of immense value to students we interact with. (Goldie Pritchard)