The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Posted by Seeking Solace |

I have heard that sometimes instructors receive phone calls from parents inquiring about their child's progress. I sercretly hoped that I would get one of those calls just so that I could say "Sorry, FERPA."

So I was all excited when I received a voicemail from a parent who wanted to discuss his son's progress. So, I called the father back, ready with my FERPA speech.

Me: Hello, this is Seeking Solace returning your call regarding Junior. I mean no disrespect here, but the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act prohibits my discussing Junior's academic status with you.

Parent: We signed a waiver allowing us to speak to Junior's teachers.


I checked with the register. Sure enough, there was a FERPA waiver.

I called the parent back and explained that I had to assume that a waiver was not filed, mainly for my own protection. Then, we had a discussion about Junior's progress, actually lack of progress. Junior has attended only two classes this semester and has not submitted any work.

Then the other bomb dropped. Junior's parents are coming to Lake Effect Snow Central next week to check on Junior and meet with his professors, including me. Junior will be present. They want to see what needs to be done to get Junior on track.


Good grief. The thought of a parent-teacher conference at the college level seems so weird. Whatever happened to the parents just kicking Junior's ass and telling him to get his shit together? Although, to be fair, the parents may have already done that and by meeting with me, they are ensuring that Junior does get his shit together.

At the same time, I wonder if this conversation is going to be dominated by the parents. It may be possible that Junior is just not cut out for college right now and there is a push by the parents for him to stay in college. I have seen that scenario too many times.

I am thinking about contacting Junior's other instructors to see if they are getting a visit as well.

Thanks for nothing, FERPA!


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

At least you have a pretty simple remedy for Jr -- get your backside to class and do the work.

Before the meeting I'd look carefully at your syllabus and Jr's perfomance so far -- decide what you will permit in terms of "make-up" work and discussions about prior classes -- and put it in writing. This is a situation where your attourney brain needs to be working right beside your professor brain...

The thing is, any situation in which the waiver has been signed is a situation in which there is trouble.

I didn't think that before Hubby had an issue with a parent -- and I don't dare to say anything more... but, if we ever meet, I'll tell you the whole story :).

Anonymous said...

o dear god, seriously.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Basically EVERY student's parents at Former College signed the FERPA waiver (or I think actually the kids signed it so their parents could bug us legally). So on the one hand, I disagree that any situation in which the waiver has been signed is a sign of trouble...but on the other, it also tells you who's side Former College was on (that would be the people who paid the tuition!).

k8 said...

Oh my! I know someone else at an institution that encourages faculty-parent conversations. Well, I suppose at least they won't have to take their angel's word that he has been keeping up with his coursework.

And, I agree with philosophy factory's comment about using documentation and getting things in writing.

My parents had a different approach to this type of situation. Basically, if we screwed up like this students has, we lost parental funding for higher education. Seriously. One of my siblings screwed up the first year of college and had to drop out. That sibling had to move back home (we weren't threatened with homelessness), get a job, and pay for his/her own tuition, fees, books, transportation to school, etc., at the local regional campus of the state college. S/he took about six years to graduate, but was making the dean's list by the last few semesters.

In many ways, I think this was a much more effective approach and it made us take their financial assistance very seriously. We definitely didn't have helicopter parents. ;-)

Nels said...

Yep, it seems all our students sign those forms. I've had lots of talks with parents. As Director of Writing, I get calls all the time. Usually, in that case, it's pretty easy to handle because it's so clear what's wrong and what can(not) be done about it.

Seeking Solace said...

I definitely plan on having Junior sign a contract. It's just the attorney side of my brain which never shuts off!

Prisca said...

Blech. Like it's really going to do any good. I'm pretty skeptical about whether this come to Jesus meeting is really going to do much good. Do you really think it will matter if the kid doesn't come to class? Do keep us posted.