Childcare Issues

Why a Policy of Saying “Yes” to Child Visitors to Class Makes Sense

Gail Bennett
Senior Lecturer in English
IU School of Liberal Arts

Five-year-old Brandon slipped quietly out of his seat, stole to the front of the classroom and, eyes down, held out his drawing. His picture was a gift for me, the teacher, a kind I rarely receive as a college professor, and I accepted it with pleasure.

“Why thank you!” I said. And, as quietly as he came, Brandon scooted back to the oversized desk/chair combo he occupied beside his dad, Jayden. His father glanced over, eyes shining with pride because of his son’s good behavior. Brandon concentrated intently on composing another picture.

Jayden was the father of five children. Most spent their day in school, but Jayden sometimes needed to bring his youngest with him to class, or he would not be able to attend. I never objected. Being able to bring Brandon meant that Jayden rarely needed to be absent.

Welcoming Brandon to class began a career long commitment to welcoming any student’s child when needed. In nineteen years of teaching at the college level, I’ve never felt that a student has misused this privilege, and a child has never been disruptive in my class.

One year, a student was due to deliver her baby three weeks before the end of term. She approached me in advance: “My husband and I have three other children, which he’ll be watching at home while I’m at school, but I want to breastfeed. Could I bring my baby to class after it’s born, while I finish the term?”

“Of course.”

Timmy was just three days old when he entered our basement classroom in the arms of his mom. If he fussed, his mom left with him for the short time it took to resettle him and return to our classroom. Mom and baby prospered, and our class was enriched by this mother’s commitment to both her family and her education.

Infants, toddlers, teens—all have been welcomed into my classroom. A babysitter becomes ill or cancels unexpectedly; a child’s school break falls during their parent’s school year--these common events can become a logistical impossibility for a young parent trying to navigate working, parenting, and procuring a college education.

Every year, I ask freshman students how many of them are the first in their family to attend college. Usually, nearly half raise their hand. Welcoming the children of students to class when needed can reduce the stresses they are encountering, and it can be a small encouragement to help them persevere, amidst all of the other obstacles they will face in the effort to complete their education.

I’ve never said no to a parent who asks to bring a child to class in times of need. I’ve never had reason to regret my policy of always saying “yes.”

After all, it’s a triple win policy. My student can remain in the course, increasing the chance that he or she will graduate. The student’s classmates are reminded of how much their education matters. And sometimes, I become the glad recipient of a picture made by an appreciative five-year-old.