Last week we had an interesting and terrifying visitor. She is the mother of a senior in our program and she came to our office to demand that her son, a junior, be admitted to our cohorts. First, she asked why no one had recruited him for the program, to which we replied that we advertised all around the school last spring and it was up to the students to take the initiative to apply. At this point she replied that she was taking the initiative on behalf of her son now- that he is a Native American with two siblings who went through the program and that he must be accepted right away.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't always handle conflict well- emotional break downs? suicide attempts? love issues? I'm all over those- but being yelled at... not my cup of tea. My "fight or flight" instinct kicked in and I went with the "flight," immediately referring her to my supervisor and sending him a panicking e-mail (sorry, Ben!). This seemed to sedate the mother enough to leave us alone, but not without taking my business card first- now I'm screening all of my calls.
Colin was able to catch up with the student in question and found out that he had no interest in applying or joining the program. We also looked up his grades and found out that his gpa is a 1.4, well below our requirements for applicants (2.0 or higher).
When the mother finally left the office, we were so shaken that we cowered under our desks in the fetal position. See Victoria below:
While this was a kind of hilarious office story that hopefully amused you, dear reader, it points to a bigger issue of a parent's dreams for her child and her child's goals for himself. It was heartbreaking to hear how desperately this mother wanted her son in our program, wanted him to graduate high school and attend a four year college just like his sisters only to find out that the son seems to want none of that for himself. The story became even more heartbreaking when we learned that the oldest son of the family had been killed serving in the US military in Iraq and knowing that many of the hopes and expectations of this family ride on this son's shoulders now.
So often in my studies of Education in college I thought and wrote about parent involvement being key to student success. I even wrote one paper about how parent involvement/motivation/presence is one of the key issues facing our educational system today. This encounter, however, proved my entire theory wrong. Here, the parents were incredibly invested in their children's education and success, despite their low income and minority status- but it was, most likely, the son's lack of motivation which will lead to his lack of educational attainment.