Perspectives on Parenting from Higher Education

I got into teaching English in higher education, in part, because I love learning. College was fun for me, even in spite of its challenges; in fact, the challenges were what made it so fun. Discovering new ideas and new ways of looking at and living in the world were invigorating. They still are— that’s why I suppose I chose to never leave the halls of higher ed. since they afford me the opportunity every day to be exposed to science, literature, and continual learning.

A lot of the learning I do when I’m on campus comes from three unique sources: 1) my own individual reading and writing, 2) my students as we explore together various texts in fiction and non-fiction, and 3) my colleagues since many of them have been researching, writing, and teaching far longer than I have. This last source, my colleagues, have been an endless storehouse of knowledge. Often it’s the impromptu conversations in the hallways or over coffee about teaching techniques and/or field-specific understandings (or misunderstandings) that act as a catalyst for my own growth and change, both professionally and personally.

Naturally, many of my fellow educators have their own families, so it occurred to me one day that the storehouses of wisdom and knowledge that walk the hallways of Truckee Meadows Community College (where I teach) must have some sage advice for me, not only on how to improve my classroom and curriculum, but how to improve my parenting of my two-year-old son, Jameson. So like any other employee obnoxiously soliciting their coworkers for stuff (e.g. fundraiser participation, office supplies, and workplace gossip), I sent an All Discussions e-mail to my campus to see which parents wanted to offer their education/field-specific advice for parents on parenting. The following are ten of the best perspectives on parenting I collected, in 150 words or less, from educators and administrators in higher education:

Miguel Martinez

  • Administration with a focus on access, outreach, and recruitment to underrepresented populations (9 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Father of two (ages 1 and 2)

“Reserve energy for when you get home; educating students and colleagues is important work but don’t negate your child’s development. Expose your children to your customs and traditions along with new experiences that can better prepare them to lead a fruitful life. When possible bring your kids to your college and events to ingrain the idea of going to college early.”

Neil L. Siegel

  • Librarian (30 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Father of one (age 21)

“My wife and I have traveled the nation and the world extensively, both alone and together. The college background and the diverse experience of travel and absorbing other cultures has played a major role in Ben’s upbringing. We embrace free thinking and the respect and absorption of other cultures. From an early age Ben visited the wonders of the West and major cities. The concept of reading, playing music, and science played early in his development. Engagement, experience, an open mind, exposure and understanding why, when and where all contributed to his critical thinking and intellectual development. Making the child feel valued for their abilities shapes their confidence, drive, and ambition. The quality of friends determines personality. It takes more than parenting to shape a mind. Friends, teachers, knowledge, and culture shape who we become.”

Benjamin Davis

  • Environmental, Health, and Safety (EH&S) Professional (13 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Father of two (ages 7 and 9)

“My sister and I were raised as strong readers; I push my kids to enjoy reading any chance they get. I don’t care what they read (within reason), as long as they are reading, asking questions, and learning. From an EH&S standpoint, we explore nature together, in all its venues (written, real, and digital), and dissect what we learn in the context of what implication humans have on our environment. The power we have to shift anthropogenic habits is an important premise in my field, and an important message to my kids. Fortunately, even popular media like One Strange Rock (Nat Geo), Planet Earth (BBC), public television, radio, and even 72 Most Dangerous Animals (Netflix), give parents the ability to incorporate screen time and learning without turning their little brains into pudding, and kids choose these shows. My advice: let kids explore their interests. My job: promote healthy interests.”

Lenaya Andersen

  • English Professor (10 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Mother of four (ages 5, 8, 11, and 17)

“Engagement, communication, and reading. I find no greater application of ‘best practices’ than to read to children from birth on (even after they can read themselves). Set the example of reading by doing so often and in front of them. Engaging communication with children at all ages (even when it means listening to the recap of kindergarten drama daily), and looking them in the eyes while they talk to you rather than glancing up from your devices. So much of children’s communication is non-verbal and, if parents aren’t engaged, they will miss it!”

Kevin Schaller

  • Emergency Management & Homeland Security (15 years) & First Responder (8 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Father of three (ages 24, 29, and 31)
  • Grandfather of one (age 2)

“Like the Scouts’ motto: be prepared. Anticipate disruptions in life and have a plan ‘B.’ Maintain situational awareness for your safety and those around you. Understand consequences of risk taking, but enjoy life and follow your passion. Live your life following the Golden Rule: no one is beneath you, and those above you may need you to save their life. Take the high road; the climb is more difficult, but you never need look over your shoulder and the view is much better. Be thankful for every breath you take, every flower you smell, every sunset you see, all the music you hear, and cherish every embrace.”

Lee Raubolt, M.S.

  • Assistant Director of Admissions and Records (6 years)
  • Adjunct Math Professor (21 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Father of one (age 15)

“I was always drawn towards Math, Science, Engineering and Physics growing up and didn’t pay much attention to Literature, English, and the Arts. When I studied at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, I was exposed to the Liberal Arts and how important it was for all people. I then went to Durango, Colorado and worked at Fort Lewis College and my understanding of the Liberal Arts was expanded. I then married my beautiful wife and she doubled majored in English and Art History and we have a true understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We have embraced this understanding and we try not to push our daughter into either direction, and we believe this has helped her become a well-rounded person loving to study and being open to anything she is learning. She loves books, writing, math, and any new experience to enhance her ability to learn.”

Tanya Farnung-Morrison, Ph.D.

  • Foreign Language Instructor (10 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Mother of one (age 1)

“If you speak a language beyond your mother tongue, one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is to use it with them at home. In addition to reading bilingual books, you may narrate routines, name common objects or sing songs. Many parents hesitate to do this, preferring to allow their child to learn one language rather than “confusing” them with multiple languages. Research supports the benefits of speaking a second tongue to your child from infancy. Being bilingual exercises the brain in ways that lead to heightened creativity, listening skills, the ability to solve problems and think critically, as well as the possibility of increased earning potential far down the road. Language also serves as a gateway to culture, opening your child to the perspectives and practices of people around the world and building empathy and understanding.”

Kate Kirkpatrick

  • Director of Marketing and Communications (7 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Parent of two boys (ages 13 and 8)

“Communicating with children – of any age – can be a challenge as you step through the learning phases of life. As someone who works in higher education advertising and communications, I’d recommend having a sense of humor with your kids as much as you can. Use a little ditty to impart your wisdom, do a silly walk, and find a way to make your message memorable. Just like when your kid finds a funny meme or YouTube video, the messages you impart will stand out from the ‘wah-wah’ of everyday life. The Kirkpatrick boys can still sing the phone number song we made up when trying to teach them our number, and they both remember stories I’ve shared of my own funny personal failures. My teenager will roll his eyes when I use a humor method, but it guarantees I get his attention. The very youngest kids are not unlike tweens and teenagers… both will need to make mistakes on their own in order to learn the ‘right way’ to navigate society. Keeping your wisdom close at hand may help them to make better decisions.”

Brad Summerhill 

  • English Professor (20 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, NV
  • Father of one (age 18)

“Key literacy abilities for reading, writing, communication, and creative cognition are set early in childhood. Both parents, including and especially a father if one is present, should read to the pre-reading child. Reading “age appropriate” material is not a requirement. In other words, the child benefits from the sound of the reading voice and the attentive one-on-one time spent together during literary activity. In fact, I recommend reading content-appropriate young adult or even adult novels to the pre-reading child. The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Alice in Wonderland are every bit as valuable as Goodnight Moon, Are You My Mother? and Green Eggs and Ham. ‘Read up’ to children instead of “‘reading down’ to them.”

Dayna Kaltman

  • Education Professor (20+ years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, NV

“Literacy Advice: As early as birth, children follow role models from observing their parents in any interaction with humans. We provide as many opportunities as possible to expose them to language. Exposure is paramount, whether it be through nonverbal communication or through our use of vocabulary. This is a learned behavior that comes from good role models appropriate modeling strategies. Setting rules and routines is an integral foundation for these learned behaviors. As early as birth, we need to read to our children. I always told my parents of struggling readers, during parent conferences , that you need to snuggle up with your child each night and read with or to them if they can not read; thus showing them how important reading is. Another suggestion was to model these independent reading strategies for them: (Instead of picking up your phone, grab a book, set a timer, and take an adventure with your child)–that is my advice!”

And I offer one more perspective on parenting from the halls of higher education— my own:

Joshua Shinn

  • English Professor (11 years)
  • Truckee Meadows Community College: Reno, Nevada
  • Father of one (age 2)

“Literacy is paramount, for all other skills, both hard and soft, are built upon this foundation. The ability to read the room, read the writing on the wall, or read the coming climate all originate from reading a book— or more specifically, many books. I see this every day in my classroom and in the culture at large: individuals who didn’t grow up reading find themselves lacking many of the skills necessary for success in an ever-changing world; but individuals who did grow up reading find themselves better equipped for success both personally and professionally. Thus, every opportunity for language exposure and immersion should be made by parents. Letters, numbers, written language, spoken language, sign language, multiple languages, melodies, songs, and story—all should be embedded into the daily routine of a child. Good books, like good food, water, and shelter, are the ingredients of a healthy diet and life.”

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