Dear teacher….

Dear Freshman Seminar Teacher –

I am writing to you with an issue I am having with a particular lesson you have introduced in your course. Though I very much like the idea of your course – to help Freshman get the skills they need in order to be prepared and plan for their next 4 years of school – and beyond -hopefully, I am not happy with one particular example you used while teaching the topic of communication. Specifically, when the students were given the list of examples on poor communication one example discussed was “Probing Conversation”. I did not like the example portion of this topic at all- and I am asking that you fix it. For the sake of future teen communication it needs to be fixed.

Imagine how excited I was as a mom when my son came into my room with a sheet of paper in hand and asked me to read it. I thought we are having a bonding moment. He wanted to share something special he learned in his Freshman Seminar class. I began reading – the topic was on poor communication skills- there were a few types listed with appropriate examples.  As I read further I came across the one titled “Probing Communication”. A probing conversation is when a person asks many questions to drag (or as I would say guide) an answer from someone. It is considered to be intrusive when used in the wrong way and influential when used correctly. This example did not go into this fact. It explained that probing is bad communication and listed types of probing questions and then noted as an example of who may use this type of bad communication as parents! What? You are teaching my child that I shouldn’t be probing? Hello? Did anyone who wrote this lesson even have children..better yet teens? We would not ever speak to our kids if we parents did not probe!

I asked my son “Do you think I probe?”


Me: “You don’t think I should ask you questions?” I mean he showed this lesson to me for a reason…

Him: “Well you can ask questions – just not so many.”

Me: “You don’t think I need to know answers to questions like ‘where are you going’ or ‘what time will you be home?’ or “who are you going to be with?’ ?”

Him: “Well you do but I can tell you that.”

Me:”So you will tell me all this information before I would have to ask you?”

Him: “Yes”

Me:”Hmm – yea well see about that.”

Fast forward a few weeks and I am trying to get info on whats up for homecoming – we are on like the third conversation and i have little information on the plans…Son: “Um mom you’re probing”

Me trying not to let steam come out of my head…calmly I say ..”What?- I need to know this information. I am the parent you are the child.”

Him: “I am meeting some friends at the dance.”

Me:”Do they have names?”

Him: “Yes”

OK so is my question limit over now?…I know the kids have names…great. Oh my Gosh- do you see what the drill has to be as a parent? My rules are that I need to know – WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW about an activity – and this the minimum. I may need more info depending on the activity. And your probing lesson is being used against me! These are probing questions- I have to probe – he is a young teen prone to make huge blunders and we are parents trying to minimize the blunders and their impact on the kids life. We cannot stop the blunders but we can try – and without probing questions we leave a lot of stuff we need to know out of the convo!

So now not only do I bug the crap out of my kids when I ask them these questions they have been given the definition of the tactic and have been told it is a poor way to communicate – and they call me out on it! Seriously take that example out of the book – or rewrite it! No just forget the entire lesson because i can tell you that ammo you gave them on probing is the only lesson they absorbed because I don’t see them practicing better communication on their end. Maybe stick to resume writing, homework organization, and schedule planning.

I am all for not being too intrusive and as a mom we sometimes can try to get too into our kids business – we forget they deserve some privacy. But if they want to leave my home and convene with friends I need to know some information and I am going to ask questions and set limits if I don’t get the answers. Please teachers don’t make it harder than it already is!

Thank you for what you do – but maybe leave the lessons on communication to the speech teachers.

Do you think you can do this? How do you feel about it? Are you angry? Where were you when you read this? Do you have to run it by administration? Other teachers? How long will it take for you to get a response on this? How long will it take for you to get back to me on this? Who do you have to talk to to get this rectified? What is the process? Where will it take place?

I got more- should I keep going? I am a trained in inquisition because I am a mom. You get the point….

Sincerely –

Anne “you don’t like me probing?” Sweeney

–Thanks for reading–

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