Teaching Tuesday: Minnow comes to class

Where we left our story, Minnow and I had arrived on campus for my 8 am lecture.

First, just a reminder that my child really is the most easy-going 8 month old in history.

I brought along her stroller, a sling, a few toys, and her diaper bag (all already in the car). I figured I'd put her in the sling during class, or if she wanted to get down and crawl around, that would be OK too. Secretly, I kind of hoped some student would volunteer to watch her and I'd gallantly refuse saying that her education was more important than my inconvenience. None did.

We arrive about 3 minutes before class, and I introduced Minnow to some of the early arrivals. At the start of class, I introduced her to those assembled, jokingly calling her the guest lecturer. The first twenty minutes of class was spent on a small group activity, so Minnow (in the sling) and I circulated amongst the groups, listening, and directing the discussions.

After the group work, I launched into the lecture. I found it difficult to use the pointer with the sling on, so I did a bit more standing at a distance and describing the slide than usual. I like the sling for a hip carry which is where Minnow is happiest these days for just walking around, but it restricts arm movement on the side where the fabric goes over the shoulder. The ergo gives me full arm motion, but I haven't figured out the hip carry with it yet (and I didn't have time to try this morning.).

Toward the end of the first chunk of lecture, Minnow started to get fussy, and suddenly I realized that she hadn't eaten in 2 hours. We still had 30 minutes to go, so there was no way she was going to make it through class without feeding. I had an empty sippy cup, but I didn't think water would amuse her for a half-hour. Fortunately, part-way through my lecture, I'd included an example exam question, and so when I hit that slide, I told the class to discuss it amongst themselves for a few minutes. The other fortunate thing is that Minnow is a speed eater and rarely nurses for more than a few minutes at a time during the day. So while my students had ample time to discuss the question, Minnow had time for a snack in an adjacent empty classroom.

Returning to my classroom, I resumed the lecture and only in the last few minutes of class did Minnow decide to interject with her opinion on the subject ("babababababa").

So, all in all, things went remarkably well. I'm impressed with how well Minnow did, and how well I was able to tune her out and focus on what I was trying to teach. In the past I've found that when I've had Minnow in my arms, my brain has turned to mush, but I guess I've got a little better filter these days. I know that if I have to bring her to class again, I need to plan on feeding her directly before class or finding some sort of food that she can eat without my help. Of course, this will get easier as she gets older.

I don't want to bring Minnow to class again this semester, but now at least I know what to expect if it does happen. And next semester my first class isn't 'til 9:30, so I shouldn't have quite so many early morning catastrophes.

As far as dealing with Fish, I was initially quite pissed. My usual tactic when he f's up is to call him, tell him off and then hang up on him. (really mature, I know). This time I didn't call him until my usual leaving work check-in. I asked him to study her daycare sheet, which records arrival time, feedings, etc. and told him we'd discuss it when I got home. By then, he'd figured out what had happened. We discussed several different options (after I refused to let him shift the blame) and I think we have some strategies for avoiding bottle disasters in the future. Our principal idea is to increase the supply of both pumping and feeding bottles, so that if they don't get thoroughly scrubbed each night we're still OK for the next day. I also decided that the morning that I have my teaching evaluation, I'm going to try to hire a babysitter to be on hand from 6-8 am so that I can have a few moments of calm no matter what's happening with Minnow.

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Glad to hear it went well at class with Minnow. She is only 8 months old and has already attended her first college lecture! Go Minnow!

Also, good for you for dealing maturely and productively with Fish. Much better results that way. I know cause I've been there, too.

By Writer Chica (not verified) on 16 Oct 2007 #permalink

Not that it's something you'd necessarily want to do, but here's looking forward to the day when you could choose to nurse Minnow while giving the lecture.

I'm curious; did any of your students care that Minnow was along? I've never had to take my kids along to lecture before, but I did have to take them to a journal club once (I'd forgotten they had an early out due to teacher in-service) and I have to take them to many meetings for groups I'm in, and I always worry that others are a little ticked at me for bringing them along. Did you sense any of that, or were they all ok with it, do you think?

As a student (I'm thinking as an undergrad, here), just thought I'd say that I'd have in the very least, not minded her presence at all. It sounds like you really managed to keep your focus, good work! In truth, I would have loved to see her and been impressed to watch you with her and still managing to focus on the lecture, but then when it comes to parenting/family things I'm not your typical student - and wasn't as an undergrad.

I'm a little confused - did you mean you secretly hoped a student in the class would offer to tend to her, or that some student would see you in the department before hand? I always tell the faculty members (and department admin staff) with young children that if their child is on campus and they need someone to watch them while they tend to a lecture, seminar, or the like, I'd be happy to help out. I've never been taken up on that, but our faculty members with babies are fathers and I suspect if something goes wrong they're not the ones left to deal with it - but they do seem to be pretty involved and I do see one of their children at department social events and such a couple of times a year.

Wow - sounds like quite the day. Glad to hear it went okay. I bet you and I went to a few lectures with mom back in the day.

I know of this happening before, and with older children who were wild and crazy, interjecting in the middle of lecture with impertinent comments. I'm glad it went well for you, but be cautious. When my daughter was about 9 mo. I took her to a conference talk that I was giving. I had a care-giver with me, but they wanted to see me speak. As soon as I got up to talk my daughter started chanting mama, mama, and had to be taken from the room.

I know how hard it can be to juggle children and work though. For example, yesterday I forgot about picking up my son from piano lesson. The nanny reminded me late in the day, but it messed up my dinner plans. By the time I had retrieved my children and returned home, it was clear that it was a dining out night. But I got home to find DH on a conference call that was scheduled at the last minute. Dining out turned into take-out. But, just before I left to get the food, my son had an accident in his pants. He is old enough to change himself (although he dislikes it) so I told him to do so and left him with DH (still on phone) hoping for best. Things were resolved when I came home. Turns out son can change self fine, and he was ensconced in a movie, while DH finished call. Dinner was a success and night went on as planned. But the stress I could do without.

I always worry that others are a little ticked at me for bringing them along. Did you sense any of that, or were they all ok with it, do you think?

One student included in an email after class that he enjoyed meeting her, but I'm not sure that was the prevailing attitude. Your question prompted me to write an anonymous web-based survey for them, and I included a question about bringing Minnow to class. I'll share the results when the come in.

Depending on your pump (works on the PIS, would be hard on an Avent), you can pump directly into bags. It is inconvenient, as you really have to hold on to both sides and they are tricker to manage in the chiller bag, but it can be done. Open the storage bag and kind of slide it over the top of the part of the pump that has the valve on it. When I do my middle of the night pump, I always rinse everything quickly before going back to bed. That way, there is no crusted stuff and I can quickly sterilze in the a.m. If your daycare has a freezer (they probably do) you can leave some frozen emergency bags with them and keep an empty bottle in the diaper bag. That should get them through if needed. At her age, they can also give her a little watered down juice during the day in a pinch. If they have older kids at the center, they have juice.

Whoever scheduled you for an 8 a.m. the semester after you had a baby is not very considerate.