New Year’s Resolution

It is the New Year and that means many of us are making resolutions. If you are still looking for some, there are two that I would like to offer as potential suggestions:

Before you do something related to your Deac’s experience, ask yourself

1) “What Is My Student Learning?” (or WIMSL for short)

and

2) “Would I want to tell my student I am taking this action?”

Bear with me as I elaborate.

For the first one, “What Is My Student Learning?”, there are times where parents and family members do something for their children – and I freely admit I do this too – thinking it will save them time, spare them inconvenience, get a better/faster resolution to something, etc. These are loving, well-intentioned gestures, I know.

But let’s think this through. If I…

Call an administrative office on campus to ask how my student can accomplish a particular action, What Is My Student Learning? Is my student learning to navigate our web site or research the answer in the appropriate policies or handbooks? Is my student building relationships with administrators they need to know? (Conversely, if I am the one calling, does that disadvantage my student in terms of the kind of relationship he might have with that office? Hint: it might. Offices generally prefer working with the students themselves.)

If I voice a complaint about something my student is experiencing, WIMSL? Is my student learning to advocate for himself? Is he learning to respectfully disagree with someone? Is he learning how to write a strongly worded letter or deal with someone on the phone? Is he learning how to escalate a concern to the next level if needed? And, importantly, is he learning that sometimes a policy or decision is not going to change – or that the answer he wants is No – so how will he learn to adapt to that?

If I do the legwork: whether that is to hunt down supplies my student needs, buy books, try to find a local dentist, hairstylist, etc., WIMSL? Is he learning how to provide for his own needs? Is he using good reasoning and logic to find answers? Is he figuring out how to find reputable vendors?

And if I do any or all of the above, WIMSL about how to manage multiple and competing priorities that are non-academic? Is he learning that certain stores close by 5 pm so he has to plan his day to get that needed supply in time? Is he learning that you have to factor in travel time, or time for an order to be processed, or whatever the case is?

Parents are not Google and we are not 24/7 ATMs. We don’t have to give answers or provide solutions as soon as our kids say they have an issue – or even at all. As a matter of fact, it is frequently better if we don’t give the answers, or take the actions. It is completely OK for you to say in moments where your student is griping about something “Gosh, honey, I am so sorry. How are you going to handle that?” This is how students learn to be self-sufficient. They were smart enough to get to Wake; I have faith they will be smart enough to figure most things out.

Besides, not every complaint or vent is a request for help. I believe it was Freud who said sometimes a vent is just a vent 🙂

As for the question of “Would I want to tell my student I am taking this action?”, this answer is pretty short. If you wouldn’t want your Deac to know you called the school/intervened on their behalf/asked a question for them/whatever the case may be, you probably don’t want to take that action.

This is about playing the long game. Focus on what your Deac learns if you do something, vs if they do something. How does that help in the long run? And if they would be mortified to know you had done X, don’t do X.

I am resolving to do these things for my Class of ’27. Join me if you wish 🙂

 

— by Betsy Chapman ’92, MA ’94

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