Helicopter Parents

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When I first started getting into Student Services I was warned about them: Helicopter Parents.

And they are out there; calling Deans to make sure Johnny is wearing a sweater on cold days, insisting on sitting in on meetings with the Registrar, Financial Aid, and Residence Coordinators even into their child’s fourth year. Before I arrived, my staff recalled having to practically pull a parent out of a dorm room hours after the move in process was over. They just couldn’t leave.

Professors receive a good portion of the hovering as well: angry calls to professors about why Sarah got a dismal “B” on her assignment are frequent. Or parents are trying to fight why tests or exams can’t be made easier, moved, or changed to suit their child.

Hugh Kretschmer, TIME journalist, certainly creates a vivid picture of this phenomenon in his article “The Growing Backlash to Overparenting.”

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1940697-1,00.html

But there are other studies that have shown that students are crying out for parental advice, who need more supervision than they are given, and there are links to parent interaction and deep, positive learning outcomes of students. The National Survey or Student Engagement in 2007 noted that involved parents are often linked to student success.

So how should Student Services professionals respond? Should we push some of our fussiest parents (and I can admit to encountering more than my fair share) or do we bring them in and create partnerships with parents who potentially share our own concerns?

I believe Student Services is striking the balance between potentially two exhausting extremes.

Orientation programs designed just for parents help ease them in an often scary, and frightening transition of send their children away from home. We provide information and services that allow them to realize that their children are in good hands.

On the other hand, our confidentiality protocols restrict ability to give academic or personal information about students to parents. This actually encourages the parents and children to connect. If parents want to know what is going on with their children, they have to speak to their child, rather than going over the student’s head and contacting the school president, Dean, or professor.

And thanks to social media, students have reported to contacting their parents up to 11 to 14 times a day when they are in first year university. To some this is a troubling statistic that shows just another way that students are being taught to never develop true independence. The hope is that it strengthens the child/parent relationship, without putting strain on the Student Services’ phone lines and email inboxes.

What do you think of the “helicopter parent” phenomenon?Image

The Five Best Ice Breaker Games

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Orientations are designed to help students build relationships with others. For many students coming onto campus, a major concern is, “Who is going to be my friend? How will I get to know them?”

Ice Breakers is one of the best ways to ease that process. There are those who find the  juvenile, but I for one believe that no matter what your age, an appropriate ice breaker can be the key to a successful event.

I have listed my five favourite ice breaker games that you can use at your next school or work function. 🙂 I believe the best ice breakers are easy to understand and have minimal set up or clean up. Hope you enjoy!

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The New Boss

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Awaiting the incoming of a new boss can be a time of excitement, anxiety, and fitful preparation.

It’s like desperately trying to clean up your home, and when the guest arrives, asking them to take it over.

(And if Pinterest has taught me anything – its that I am not half the hostess I  thought I was.)

Right now the new boss I’m anticiapting will be the Dean of Student Services at my college.  As I prepare my new ‘house guest’ I can’t shake the feeling of nervousness.  Having strong leadership, and a fresh pair of eyes to look at our work is extremely important, but also difficult to navigate.

Fears of mine:

  • What if they try to change or dismiss a project I have been passionately working on?
  • What if their view of student interaction looks different than mine?
  • What if they have strange maniacal laughter that haunts me in my dreams!?

No matter my fears, I am extremely excited to have a strong sense of vision in the office. I have decided to put my fears to rest, pray that if they do have maniacal laughter, that I”ll be able to cherish it, rather than have it haunt my nightmares.

Afterall, without proper leadership, it can be easy for a department to feel like this:


No, I don’t mean that its easy to feel like an adorable running puppy. I mean that without strong leadership – it is easy to lose focus of where you are headed and what goals you are reaching for.

The new boss, the anticipated house guest, will provide exactly that. Leadership, focus, goals.
And in the meantime I will work on making sure the transition for the new guy/gal will go as smoothly as possible.

Do you have any tips on how to get over the ‘new boss’ anxiety?

Surviving the Summer Slump

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You don’t have to work in Student Services to understand what I mean when I am talking about the “Summer Slump”.

It’s not that you don’t have enough to do. It’s not even that you lack the motivation to do it. The problem lies in the fact that mysteriously through the months of June and August, everyone in the office disappears.

It’s a strange Left Behind feeling that I am sure Kirk Cameron can sympathize with. It starts when Suzy from the Business Office announces she will be camping for two weeks at the end of July.  “Good for Suzy,” you think. Then it’s Sherry from recruitment who is taking that much deserved R&R after the busy season. Excellent work Sherry. Then its the Food Services guy, the HR gal, the kind receptionist, and pretty soon you find yourself walking into the Admin office hearing crickets and watching tumbleweeds slowly roll past.

For those of us who work in higher education the problem is magnified by the lack of students roaming the hallways.
I’m busy enough. The work of planning ahead, reassessing, networking, brainstorming, researching and refuelling has certainly kept me up to my ears in workload. Yet, all that just doesn’t compare to the rough and tumble that comes with a busy academic year.

Though the rental groups do add some noise and commotion, it just isn’t the same without classroom antics, evening events, spontateous drum circles, artistic productions, or students sending me distracting viral videos off of youtube. Come to think of it, have I even watched “Man Riding on a Buffalo” lately?

My attempt to cure the summer slump is to remind myself that taking a moment to inhale and exhale is the best way to refuel for another academic year. I keep working on new projects, spend some time researching, and catch up and reaquaint myself with the staff members who aren’t sunning themselves in tropical Bermuda. 🙂 Its the best way to keep myself from running frantically around a half filled campus screaming, “Where has everyone gone?!”

So here’s the question: How do you survive the summer slump?