As a teacher, what is the most ridiculous thing that you have to deal with from parents who think that their child is ‘a perfect angel’? How did you deal with it?
Mine is nowhere near the worst, it’s just so absurd I’m sharing. It also might be a good caution for parents.
The flavor of ridiculous I get pales in comparison to teachers in K-12, but I am teaching an age group and specialization – kids wanting to go to Harvard Business School (or Stanford, or Wharton, but not much else) – that should keep me relatively immune to parent shenanigans. The kids who come to me are almost all very bright, very competent, very competitive, and dedicated to our process.
I work with 24–28 year old students. NO ONE should have his/her parent contacting me. And yet . . .
Each summer I get a few students whose Moms have booked their initial evaluation. Often the booking is preceded by a phone call where the Mom (and sometimes Dad) proceeds to sell me the case for working with her son (it’s always been a son). She found out about me through blah, blah, blah and knows I help kids taking over family businesses and family investment portfolios. So far so good. They’re not in my regular student network, but I’m thrilled to work with anyone appropriate. Usually this conversation goes well. I’ll tell mom that thanks for calling, but her son needs to handle all communication henceforth. It is up to them to decide how the bill is paid, but the son is to handle all bookings. And that’s almost always the end of mom-time.
In 1–2 cases each Aug-Oct the conversation will take an unfortunate repetitive turn. The 3rd, 4th time I’m asked the same question – in the same manner – means the parent is not listening or getting mired in minutia. It has yet to bode well for my interaction with the student. So parents reading, note that! I can’t tell you exactly what your son will need until I see him in action.
By calling me you’re indicating a lot about the student. Or at least how he grew up.
This past autumn I had one such student with distant royal lineage who felt that he would be an excellent candidate wherever he applied. Unfortunately his undergrad gpa, test scores, activities in college and post, work experience (none despite 4 years post college) and general maturity indicated otherwise. In his evaluation he kept complaining that he was rusty with math, hence his very poor performance on the evaluation. Frankly, he is/was shamefully inept for anyone over 13. Clearly he’d been given passing grades based on his surname. All of which is totally fixable with the right attitude. He did not demonstrate that either.
But the problem really spiked when I mentioned to him 1–1 that his current state would require X amount of work and may take several months to bring him up to par. He would surely miss Round 2 and should plan to execute a different set of internship experiences (in my eyes a bonus).
So the son shared my assessment with Dad. Dad didn’t like that the son would miss round 2 deadlines. ((fyi son came in Nov 12, round 2 deadlines are Jan 4–15)) Dad blows up about it at me over the phone. Once he had his share of words I reminded Dad that all assessments are private, independent, and my professional opinion. While I try to be optimistic for the student, it serves no one to be unrealistic.
I also reminded him that he is not obliged to work with me. That’s why the evaluation is paid. It is independent. No obligation. They are free to choose another adviser. I even suggested they find someone who has a background in XYZ so the son can get the help he needs.
“Are you saying you will not work with my son?!”
“Correct. Now that you and I have spoken it is clear I cannot be the adviser you want.”
“How DARE you deny him his rightful path.”
(silence from me)
“Did you hear me?! How dare you!!”
“Sir, I did hear you and there’s nothing I can say to forward this conversation. It is clear you will be happier at least initially with an adviser who will promise a deadline that I believe your son is not likely to reach. That amplifies the wrong kinds of pressures and incentive so I politely decline.”
At this point an hour had passed and a very real student was standing at my office door. Despite deference and many earlier warnings that I needed to go, I finally had to give the very stern, “Sir, you’ve now pushed almost 12 minutes into my next student’s appointment. This is unacceptable. Good day. (click)”
As you may expect, I received a heap of emails with rather lewd suggestions – in writing no less!! I keep a special file of these. It’s handy to see the names periodically.
While MBA programs can indeed be places where your privilege and rank get you a leg up, you have to have at least ONE to stand on.
Bad behavior run amuck.
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