A Piece of Advice: Stay out of your college student’s class issues.

In a little over 9 months, our youngest son will head off to college. We’ve been through this twice before with his two brothers. Our oldest headed off to college in 2013, and our middle son went in 2018.  You could say we know the drill. Besides, both my husband and I have several advanced degrees, and I taught nursing at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the past at two different universities.

I saw something online yesterday that bothered me, however. There was a group of parents, well-meaning – I am sure, who were complaining via social media about one of their students’ professors.  The professor was named in the initial post. Let me clarify a few things: 1) the college in question was not local to our immediate area, nor even in our state, and 2) the course in question was anatomy and physiology for nursing students. Having had taken anatomy and physiology as a nursing student many moons ago, I took an interest in the online conversation that took place via postings.

Firstly, anatomy and physiology are biology courses. Typically, they are not taught by nursing professors. This was not clear in the post, nor does it matter at all.  Secondly, I feel the professor should never have been named in the initial posting. Neither we nor the parents of the students in question, really know whether they are a “quality” professor or not. Third, anatomy and physiology are what are known as “weeder” courses for nursing students and others hoping to become a health care professional. They are typically hard – for a good reason. A solid understanding of the structure and function of the human body is essential to be a competent provider of care. If you do not learn the material presented in these classes, you will not be able to provide high-quality patient care. Nurses, as one of the first lines of patient contact and advocacy,  need to be attuned to what is considered normal anatomy and physiological functioning. For when the nurse assesses their clients (formerly known as patients) health, they need to know what is normal to be able to detect what is not. Anatomy and physiology are foundational courses for the profession of nursing, just as calculus is foundational for engineers.

So, what set me off? Many of the parents in this thread of posts were complaining this professor was unfair, too hard, not a “good” or “quality” professor! Really? All they know is what they’ve been told by their students, most of whom seem to be struggling in this course given their parents’ reports and concerns. Guess what?! College is supposed to be hard. And, sometimes professors do “suck.” But, guess what?! Parents do not get to fix it. Some of the posts suggested that the parents do just that – email the Dean and blow the professor in for being “terrible.”  There was a bandwagon of adults jumping on the “trash the professor” postings.

More level headed responses were to 1) get your student a tutor for the class. Ahhh – what a novel idea! I actually served as a peer tutor for those two courses during my own time in undergraduate nursing school. 2) Let the students handle it.  Some intelligent adult (parent) actually reminded others that their student is an adult at college and THEY need to handle any issues with their classes or professors. Good idea!

Why and when have we become a “fix it” society? I know we all want our students to be successful but if we are always fighting their battles, they will never learn how. As one parent pointed out, this needs to stop! Will you be emailing or calling their boss next? How about intervening when they argue with their spouse?  Totally inappropriate.

Part of maturing is learning how to fight your own battles. In class and out. In life and all its aspects. Anatomy and physiology are hard. They are supposed to be that way. Make sure your student is working hard in the class – what are they doing to prepare? How much time are they spending on it?  Again, you cannot do the work for them, but you can ask, and you can suggest. Even this is more than you should be doing while they are in college, but at least it is somewhat more acceptable because it just involves you and your child. But, you should not contact ANYONE at your student’s university about the difficulty of a course or the quality of a professor.

That is up to your student – even if YOU do pay the bills.

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