Remember the freak snowstorm we had on the east coast of the US last October? In the leafy town in which I lived, it brought down quite a number of power lines. Almost every house in town was without power, not to mention all the schools, which were closed for almost a week.
Round about Monday evening, when it became clear there would be no school the following day, I tried to figure out what to do about the college composition class I was supposed to be teaching the next morning. I could have easily gotten a babysitter, since the high school was closed, except that no babysitter wanted to come sit with three kids in a 58 degree house, shivering under blankets. Since the power was out around town and the class was early, there was no place for a sitter to take them.
That left two options: 1) cancel class, or 2) bring at least one child with me to class. I was extremely fortunate because (here comes another list): a) I have a co-parent, and b) said co-parent worked across the street from the campus where I taught. We divvied up the children.
He took Lilah because I didn’t want to have to deal with getting a toddler to the bathroom during class. I took Benjamin because we knew he’d be on his best behavior with college kids around but on his worst behavior in an office building. Zach took a book and went with his father. I packed up some Legos and some Cheerios and off we went.
To the credit of my department chair, when I had emailed asking if this would be OK, she responded immediately that she had been known to bring a kid to class when no other options were available. To the credit of my students, they said “hi” to Ben, smiled at him, and then proceeded to be as interested in supporting evidence as college kids are capable of being at 8 AM. To the credit of my son, he played with Legos for most of the class except for the ten minutes he ate Cheerios.
The situation wasn’t ideal, but we all rolled with it because, hey, people have kids. It is what it is. When class was over, I cancelled office hours, and drove over to my husband’s office building to pick up the rest of my children. By the next class meeting, New Jersey Power and Light – or whatever they’re called – had fixed our power but not the schools’. I got a sitter.
What would I have done if I had been a single mother with an infant and no support system nearby? Probably exactly what Adrienne Pine did. Is a baby more distracting than a five-year-old? Sure. Does that mean that single parents shouldn’t be allowed to teach college classes until their children grow up old enough to eat Cheerios and play with Legos?