Memories of Awe Episode 34

Liz had begun to realize that many of Professor McKown’s stories had involved parents as well as students. In some cases, the parents were a positive influence, and in other cases parents were a negative but motivating factor in the moral beauty that students demonstrated. She wanted to explore this further.

LJ: Could we explore more about the role of parents in the stories of awe that you have collected over the years?

KMcK:  Sure, I’m glad you mentioned this because it’s something I’ve thought a lot about over the years. We are a residential campus so most of our students live here nine months a year. Parents tend to see them as 18-year-old children and not as the young adults they are becoming.

LJ: I know that’s been my experience. I guess that’s hard for both parents and students.

KMcK:  It is. I send an email to the parents of my freshman students every week to help them understand the transition. There’s one email right after the holiday break when students return for the second semester that gets a lot of attention. I warn parents that they shouldn’t get upset when students say: “I need to go home now”, referring to campus as their home.

LJ:   That’s funny. I said that, and my mother was very upset.

KMcK:  Let me share with you a short story about a parent/student experience. I had a student by the name of Mike who had a terrible first semester. I had a call from his father, Ted, who I also had in class. Ted went on a rant for over five minutes about what he was going to do. Finally, when I could get in a word I said, “Ted, he did the same thing you did your freshman year.”

LJ: That’s funny. Did Ted calm down?

KMcK:  He did, and I agreed to meet with Mike each week to go over his grades.

LJ: Did he do better?

KMcK:  He did, but what happened after that was special to me. Every Christmas, I would get an email from Ted telling me what Mike had accomplished. As it turns out, Mike became a national leader in technology integration when one company joins with another one. I can’t mention the companies, but I know that you would know the names.

At the end of every email was a very kind thank you for how I taught Ted to deal with his son’s poor performance. I tell parents that their child rearing experiences are limited in number where my number is in the thousands.

LJ: I can attest to that.

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“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

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