College problems

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Marguerite, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Maybe I should be posting this in Parent Emeritus, but this could have ramifications for parents of younger kids.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 is studying early childcare at college. The course is a diploma course (three years part time). It follows on from a certificate course which is one year part time. We were told tat the diploma course includes the certificate course in the first six months or so. Once she's finished this course, the diploma qualifies easy child 2/difficult child 2 to not only work in a child care centre, but to actually run one. But she wants to use the diploma to get into a university teaching course so she can eventually qualify to teach elementary.

    She's had a rough time. She is physically small and looks very young. I was with her when she went to enrol for the first time and i was a bit shocked when the lecturer said, "This is a very difficult course. I really don't know if you will be able to handle it."
    She said this not knowing anything about easy child 2/difficult child 2, who at that time was already three years older than a lot of other applicants.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 managed her first year. But she failed her first prac placement, largle because much of her work in prac requires her to be able to hand-write rough notes quickly,and easy child 2/difficult child 2's hypermobile joints means her hands can't write fast enough; she uses pencil so she can correct a lot later on, and her supervisor at that time gave her no concessions and refused to mark any work in pencil. I intervened, got the disability counsellor on board, and easy child 2/difficult child 2 was from then on able to use her laptop computer for her fast field notes. From then on she did well with prac.

    Second year - because her prac from 1st year had to be repeated (due to being failed for poor handwriting) she was required to repeat her prac for 2nd year. Plus her laptop computer hard drive died right before her 2nd year prac, so she chose to repeat just the prac, the next year. But for reasons that we couldn't understand, they made her repeat all assignments too, even the ones she had done well. basically, she had to repeat all of 2nd year just because of problems with the prac.

    Now easy child 2/difficult child 2 is halfway through her final year. But she has two pracs this year. The first prac was in mid-May. However, easy child 2/difficult child 2's husband, SIL2, had lost his job and easy child 2/difficult child 2 was still trying to recover financially from her losing her job right before their wedding (with lots of big bills). So she asked her lecturers, "Can you find a way for me to do my prac placement part-time? I cannot afford to take a month off work (and lose a month's income) when I am currently sole breadwinner." She emailed tis to them in early May. She also emailed the college counsellors. Nobody replied. I was at that time too ill to chase this up for her. Prac came and went, she was failed for this in this topic area. She was told tat she would need to complete this unit NEXT year.

    Now we are approaching the second prac of the year. Still not having herd anything form the lecturers, still with SIL2 out of work, easy child 2/difficult child 2 has no hope of doing her prac full-time. As earlier in the year, she could do 3 days a week for as many weeks as needed, to get the hours up. But again the vibe is, that is not possible.

    So easy child 2/difficult child 2 emailed her lecturers and asked them to help her get some sort of formal accreditation for course work completed to date, so she can at least try to get some work in the child care industry at certificate level. Once working in the industry, she would be able to do her prac at the place where she worked.

    She emailed last Thursday. No response. Plus SIL2 has been accepted into a course at the same college, and needed to be introduced to the disability support people, so since both of them needed to be seen by the disability team, I told the kids to meet me there this morning. No appointment - we just turned up.

    We dealt with easy child 2/difficult child 2's issues first. Long-term lack of support, a lot of stuff that the course should have put in place (such as tutorial support) has not been done. Problems she has raised - ignored. They have failed to answer her urgent queries and as a result, is again in danger of failing despite the fact that the work she CAN complete is a high standard. Yes, she can be obsessive and therefore sometimes a bit difficult, but she is a hard worker and honest, as well as very bright. The college has a responsibility to do their best to help her, and refer her to services if they think she needs them, or if she asks for help.

    So the outcome of today - she was sent off to collect a form to fill in, to get her formal qualification at certificate level. This was considered by the counsellors to be straightforward. Meanwhile the counsellor would negotiate with the lecturers, to get easy child 2/difficult child 2 into a more flexible prac placement.

    So we set off. Got the form from the admin office who said, "You need to get your lecturers to sign the form to say you have completed the basic course requirements.". Well, it was all in the first few months of the first year, should be no problem. We set off to the course staffroom.
    easy child 2/difficult child 2 knocked on the door and explained she needed help filling in her course completion form. "We're in a staff meeting," was all she got in reply.
    I called past easy child 2/difficult child 2 (who was about to turn away), "When will there be somebody available to help?"
    "In half an hour," we were told.

    So half an hour later we were back at that office. easy child 2/difficult child 2 said to the staff member, "I need help filling in this form, I need staff to sign off on units I have completed. Can you help me?"
    "Sorry, I have class starting in a few minutes. Besides, you need to talk to the course principal."
    [now why couldn't she have told us that half an hour earlier?]

    We headed up to the other end of the corridor (luckily easy child 2/difficult child 2 knew where to go). At the course principal's office there as a sign, "ALL enquiries, go to admin office" with arrows. So we went to the admin office. They said, "You need to speak to the course principal for that; go to her office."
    I pointed out that the sign said ALL enquiries to go to them.
    "Well I can't fill the form in for you; you need the course principal."

    We were getting bureacracy, big-time. So I stepped in again and said, "Since the sign said 'ALL enquiries' come to you, could you please call the course principal or leave a message for her, or somehow let her know that we are here to see her?"
    The office worker was looking confused, and just then easy child 2/difficult child 2 saw the course principal walk past so she chased after her. "Excuse me, but could you please help me with this form? I need to formalise my qualification now at the lower level, so I can try and get a job in child care which would make it easier for me to finish the course eventually."
    The course principal, who is the same person easy child 2/difficult child 2 had emailed for the same information last week, said, "I've only got a few minutes but I can help a little now. First, you won't be able to convert your completed units to the certificate because although the certificate course is done in the first six months of tis course, there is one unit which is not completed until the final six months of tis diploma course. And it is done in the final prac. And you say you can't do the pracs this year, so you have a problem."

    She clearly had the information at her fingertips, in her head. It was also vital information for easy child 2/difficult child 2; without it, the counsellors and easy child 2/difficult child 2 were all going to be chasing their tails for weeks, possibly months, wondering why the paperwork wasn't happening properly. And the woman had not bothered to reply to easy child 2/difficult child 2 (again).
    easy child 2/difficult child 2 asked if she should attend classes any more. The course principal said, "If you're planning on dropping out and getting this certificate, then you don't really need to."

    I stepped in again and said, "This advice is exactly the opposite of hat easy child 2/difficult child 2 has just been advised by the counselling unit - they said she needs to keep her options open in case the certificate paperwork has problems, which you have just indicated will be the case."
    The principal gave me clear vibes that she was looking forward to getting easy child 2/difficult child 2 out of her course. That is not how these lecturers are supposed to work - this college is supposed to support students who have problems, and their support for easy child 2/difficult child 2 has been abysmal. When the lecturer said something about easy child 2/difficult child 2 needing to email her with any questions, I spoke up again. "We've tried tat, especially with urgent queries, and perhaps there is a problem somewhere, but we've already lost too much time with people not getting back to her, even with vitally important responses. I've been ill this year, unavailable to support easy child 2/difficult child 2. We've just been reinforcing contact with the disabilities unit who have been aware for some years of easy child 2/difficult child 2's need for support at multiple levels. I am now stepping in to also help - our aim is to get her through this course and into the workforce. Whatever it takes to get her legitimately through this course. If she has to postpone, so be it. That would be a great shame considering that yet again, it would not be her fault. If we can avoid it, we must. So attend she must, until the counsellors can assure her that there is now a better way."

    The course principal didn't answer. Frankly, she looked a bit like a goldfish. She did say that the forms for the certificate would probably take a lot of to and fro to get sorted and still may not work out. easy child 2/difficult child 2 has to get the forms to her (she was going to do this at tonight's lecture).

    We left before I exploded. Then we went back to the counselling/disabilities unit to fill them in. I explained to the counsellors that all the work they were about to put in was about to be wasted, if the final unit for the certificate course had still not been done by the diploma students until their final session. I also made it clear - I am increasingly angry at the lack of support, at the obvious (to me) desire to get rid of easy child 2/difficult child 2. I asked for a transfer to another college to be on the table.

    The counsellor is now very much on side, was very unimpressed also.

    Outcome form today - a lot of services that should have been in place for easy child 2/difficult child 2, for all students, have not been made available. When the counsellors have been involved, they contact the lecturers who have said, "It's all resolved now," when in fact it hasn't been. The issue over the prac placement early in the year not having been resolved is a huge problem. And as we talked, it also became clear - when easy child 2/difficult child 2 has to re-enrol merely to do the extra prac, she should not have had to repeat classwork units already completed and passed. But they made her do it. The counsellor said that was wrong.

    So the counsellor is going to investigate getting a more flexible option for prac (such as a partial attendance option). So I left the counsellor with more ammunition - if the course cannot be flexible, I will at that point step in and ensure that there CAN be flexibility built in. I will go as high as it takes, and as I have a track record in getting action through, then flexibility now will be far more painless for all concerned.

    After today, we also have nailed in place - easy child 2/difficult child 2 cannot make phone calls to her lecturers or her counsellors. She will email them, but has great difficulty in more immediate forms of communication (due to a combination of extreme anxiety plus word-finding issues especially when under extreme stress, such as all this has done to her). As easy child 2/difficult child 2 herself describes it, she is a stress cryer. And then she gets self-conscious about crying. She can handle that if people don't make a fuss about it, she is getting help for it, but for now, while studying, she needs support. And she is entitled to support, there are a lot of students with bigger problems who also do eventually graduate.

    I am so angry I could spit. But at last after today, we have the email address of this counsellor. For the last few months we've had to rely on phone messages and another counsellor (who has since retired - we did not know) passing on messages. Not satisfactory.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 has an appointment on Thursday with both counsellors, to put some more stuff in place (including free job placement support). SIL2 has an appointment next Monday with the disabilities counsellor, to organise his level of support including taping lectures (he is dyslexic).

    I have copped flack from various areas (friends and some family) for 'interfering'. "She is married now, she has to look after her own affairs."
    No, she doesn't. Not if she has asked for help, not if the problems are frankly too big for anyone to realistically cope as well without help. She is owning all choices,she just needs help to cut through the crud and see which options she does have.

    I really think a lot of the problems are in the course itself, they have become lazy and complacent in how they do things, they don't follow through as they should and they change the rules as they go along, according to what is most convenient. easy child 2/difficult child 2 has turned up at times to classes that have been cancelled or changed without notice - day students have been notified but not part-timers like easy child 2/difficult child 2.

    The only way to cope with a system like tis is cave in and give up, or fight. And when she is so stressed, easy child 2/difficult child 2 needs help to fight.

    So now I'm in there with her and I have a big battle on my hands.

    Despite how it sounds, I did let easy child 2/difficult child 2 do almost all the talking today. I only stepped in to summarise when she was getting off topic, or help her when she was stuck for the right word. Where needed, I then referred the discussion back to her. I've had a lot of practice in supporting my kids this way, but still ensuring they own the process.

    But the thing we need to never forget - our difficult children take a lot longer to reach full independence and maturity, and our job is not always done when we think it is.

  2. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    How absolutely AWFUL of them!! You would expect that educators in this field would be MORE likely to help than to throw roadblocks because what they teach people who to do what she needs!

    You are quite right to help her fight this. Some things are too big to tackle on your own if you have communication and/or anxiety problems.

    If you get too much grief go to the head or President of hte university. I knwo that at least here it can lead to some very swift changes. Sometimes in employment for those who throw up roadblocks for the disabled, even if they have tenure. The last few presidents of our university have seen this kind of inflexibility in educators as a dereliction of duty and if things did not change dramatically with NO retaliation they swiftly encouraged the faculty member to leave on their own before they were fired. At least one faculty member is now teaching at a small jr college because he ignored students' requests for help with disability issues.

    I have faith that all future students will appreciate your hard work, even if they don't know it happened!
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    When easy child 2/difficult child 2 told the counsellor that she had been required to repeat assignments which she had completed to a high level the previous year, the counsellor was adamant. "That should not happen."

    Now we know this, and now it's almost certain that at least to some level, easy child 2/difficult child 2 is going to have to re-enrol next year just to get her prac placement dealt with, we are going to have to deal with this again.

    From what I can work out, this is pure laziness. The course people would have had her previous results on file and should have looked them up rather than make her do it all again. They won't get away with THAT trick again!

    I have a busy day today but will be making some calls as I go.

    I got an email from easy child 2/difficult child 2 this morning - the lecturer was really helpful last night, far more helpful than she ever has been before. Maybe she's got my message?

  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I have got appointments for easy child 2/difficult child 2 now. She sees the doctor on Monday to draw up a mental care plan. This then provides the referral for FREE counselling for extreme stress and anxiety. That appointment is at 1 pm on Monday. I know she is free on Mondays because she has college on Monday evening, too early for a normal work shift at her shop.

    She sees the counsellor at college tomorrow, to put some other stuff in place. She also emailed me after class on Monday night - the lecturer was suddenly very friendly and supportive, quite breathtaking, apparently. easy child 2/difficult child 2 thinks it's because I made my presence felt.

    It shouldn't need us to get involved for our kids to get a fair go.

  5. idohope

    idohope Member

    No it shouldn't need for you to get involved but it is great in my humble opinion that you are willing to. We all need support at times. I am sure she appreciates what you are doing (and as Susiestar pointed out) future students may be as well.
  6. ML

    ML Guest

    I'm sorry to hear about the lack of support she's received. One thing she definitely has gonig for her is a terrific mom!