If you’ll recall, in mid-October I had a disaster morning and ended up bringing Minnow to class with me. In the comment thread, Tara asked a great question: “What did my students think of it?”

So I asked them. (Honestly, it was the reason for instigating the mid-semester evaluations, which turned out to be helpful in their own right.)

I gave a list of possible answers and let them select multiple choices.

  • 34% said it was “A chance to see that professors are human.”
  • 53% said “Great. Bring her anytime.”
  • 28% said “Acceptable under rare circumstances, but shouldn’t happen on a regular basis.”
  • 6% said “Unprofessional.”
  • 9% said “A distraction for the students.”
  • 13% said “A distraction for the professor.”
  • 13% said “Fun.”

Given that 6% here corresponds to 2 students, it looks like the majority of my class wasn’t too put off by having an 8 month old in class with them. Hopefully it was a positive example for some of the (prospective) parents in class.

As for my verdict, I’d be with the 28% who said it was acceptable under rare circumstances. It certainly isn’t something I would want to do on a regular basis, and I’ve taken pains to make sure it hasn’t happened again. Next semester should be easier since my earliest class is at 9:30, not at 8 am.


  1. #1 Tara C. Smith
    November 29, 2007

    Excellent; thanks for the update!

  2. #2 Rosie Redfield
    November 29, 2007

    The sounds that babies make seem to be far more distracting than other sounds of equivalent loudness (no doubt this is adaptive).

  3. #3 Elf Eye
    November 29, 2007

    I once taught a class with a napping infant draped over my shoulder. My daughter had a mild fever, so I couldn’t leave her at the sitter’s. On the other hand, I didn’t wish to cancel the class because I wanted to maintain a ‘margin’ that would leave me free to cancel the class if a more serious situation came up later in the semester. So with one hand I steadied my daughter’s bottom and with the other I marked up the board. I was being observed by a colleague, too! Anyway, my students seem to respond pretty much the way yours did: occasionally bringing a child to class seemed acceptable to most of them.

  4. #4 ScienceGirl
    November 29, 2007

    A number of my classmates over the years (mostly guys actually!) have had to occasionally bring their babies/toddlers to class. It was not distracting at all while they were sleeping, mildly entertaining while still allowing to listen to the lecture if they were awake but mostly quiet, and the babies were taken outside of class when they started crying. The last is much easier done if the parent is a student though, so that would be my only worry for a professor bringing in a child – what happens when the child can no longer handle the lecture?

  5. #5 Writer Chica
    November 29, 2007

    Glad to hear that the students were understanding.

  6. #6 DRD
    November 29, 2007

    This is a great and timely update as I’ve been taking my week old to the last week of class as a student this past week. So far, so good. He has slept through almost all of the classes, but I sit in the back in case he wakes up. That said, right now the majority of my courses are in a field that takes great pains to encourage positive early health trajectories, so it would be ironic to see someone tell me that I can’t bring my breastfeeding child to a week of classes as they present their group project on some aspect of breastfeeding. I’m not sure I’d be so comfortable in other areas (for instance, my math/stats classes for my Masters work) or with an older infant who doesn’t sleep so much.

    Interestingly enough, the most distracting noise he makes are the hick ups after he nurses. Not a particularly loud sound… but enough to get everyone’s attention.

  7. #7 wayfarer scientista
    November 29, 2007

    um, doesn’t that make more then 100%?

  8. #8 ScienceWoman
    November 29, 2007

    If I were teaching a class with Minnow present and she really couldn’t handle it anymore, I would just end class early. If I were in a situation where I had to bring Minnow to class with me, the alternative would be canceling class so that I could stay home with her (or deal with whatever emergency had left me without childcare). So from that point of view a partial class would be better than none at all.

    DRD – You are bring a week old to class?!?! Wow! First, congratulations! And second, you have remarkable dedication to your class. I don’t think I left the house at all for well over a week.

    Wayfarer – They were allowed to make multiple selections.

  9. #9 qetzal
    November 29, 2007

    I had to do that once as a TA in grad school. Had my son in one of those back pack carriers, so he was peering over my shoulder at the students the whole time.

    He didn’t cause any problems, & the students didn’t seem to mind, but I only did it once.

    Can’t remember why I had to bring him with. I guess my wife had to work unexpectedly.

  10. #10 DRD
    November 30, 2007

    Thank you! We sure do love him. 🙂

    It is not quite as crazy as it sounds though. I had a fairly easy delivery and nice recovery thus far. All of my classes have attendance policies and 2 of the 3 classes have been nothing but student presentations. I don’t have to take notes or anything… basically just show up. My biggest fear is the germs, so I keep him in a pouch so nobody touches him with their germy hands.

  11. #11 pelf
    November 30, 2007

    I’d love to see my lecturer’s baby, but yeah, only on certain rare circumstances 😀

  12. #12 Mommyprof
    November 30, 2007

    I had to bring Offspring this semester, but we were studying something related to child development, so I actually worked her into the lesson. I don’t know what the students thought, but I think I will ask on the end-of-semester evaluation.

  13. #13 LM
    November 30, 2007

    I haven’t taken my daughter to class yet (she’s 2.5 weeks old), but being in a college of education where nearly everyone works with kids and/or has some of their own, nobody really cares. It is such a difference from the sciences (where I used to be), at least at my uni.

    DRD: I’m also worried about germs; our pediatrician advised us to keep her home until she’s about two months because it is flu season. I agree, and it gives me an excuse to not travel for the holidays! 🙂

  14. #14 Andrea
    December 1, 2007

    I had to bring my cat to class a couple weeks ago. My vet is an hour north of my home and my work is a half hour south and I had to have her at the vet shortly after work so the only way to bring her there first. I was going to keep her in the carrier but the students wanted me to let her out and since it was a good class and no one was allergic, I did. It all went fine. No one was to distracted. But one late student received a shock when he opened the door to the class and there was my 20 pounds cat sitting in front of the door!

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