As a new semester of school approaches I have begun updating my syllabi for the classes I teach. I have lately used a clause in the syllabus about no children in the classroom as I feel it is a distraction to both me and the other students. Having been in classes both as a student and as an instructor where children are present, I find it necessary now to have such a written statement.
However, there are a few parents who dislike such a clause. Some of these young parents feel that they should be able to bring their children to class, as they otherwise would need to drop out of school because they do not have enough money to hire a sitter. I feel that this is just "how it is," and is part of being a responsible adult.
Do other universities have policies about children in the classroom? How can I reach a happy medium of not coming across as a complete jerk, but still maintain a level of education in my classroom?
Added: I am of the feeling that we many times need to make a rule because of that "one person" who ruins it for everyone. My stand as it is right now is that we need to come down firmly in writing, then adjust with leniency as people show they can handle having their child in class. I am not ridiculous about my classroom rules, but I prefer to give it straight, then relax the standard if needed.
Also, as a matter of scope, I teach at a conservative Christian university. Many of the students married young and have a child or two.
( 4 months ago )
In my years of teaching in Asia I have had one class session where a student brought a child with him. It was an exceptional case but I was surprised he did not ask for permission. The child was well behaved (maybe 7 years old) and sat in the back not disturbing the class in any way. For this reason, I let it slide and I might be willing to accept it happening in the future.
However, I do make it quite clear to my students, I am the captain of this airplane and I will not tolerate ANYTHING which negatively impacts the learning environment. This includes anyone who disturbs the learning process in any way. I agree with Pete L. Clark - it is not a childcare issue. You need to focus the students on it being a learning environment issue. If a student does not turn off their ringing phone, out they go. If someone dresses in a way which distracts students or me, out they go. If anything exists which negatively impacts the learning process for even one of my students, out they go.
I'm pretty strict on this and I don't generally have problem because of that.
Back to your core question: How do you maintain a level of education while not being a jerk? You focus on the real issue. The real issue is not kids, the issue is disruptions. While you can be forgiving and understanding, to do so in a way which negatively impacts your students should never be accepted.