John Taylor has a unique history at Deerfield that gives him a wonderful perspective to guide parents on faculty communication. John’s first tour of duty in the Pocumtuck Valley was his role as Academic Dean from 1998-2000. After a five year “sabbatical” as Head of St. Andrew’s Scot’s School in Buenos Aires, Argentina, John returned to Deerfield in 2006 with his family–Mercedes, a beloved Spanish teacher, and two daughters, Sofi ’13 and Maia ’16. John was named Dean of Faculty at Deerfield in the fall of 2007.
In a recent conversation, John offers some practical guidance for parents on their role in communicating with Deerfield faculty. “Deerfield parents are terrific. They are very respectful of the faculty. I find that they generally trust our judgment about what is best for the students and support us with most of the decisions that we make.” As we have heard from other administration officials, his first piece of advice is to “let your children address their academic issues and learn from their disappointments. When your children need advice, the first resource is their faculty advisor, the individual on campus who understands the overall picture of a student’s well-being, in and out of the classroom.” If this conversation and suggested steps do not resolve the issue, John advises, “We need to find the right balance between students advocating for themselves and parents stepping in to support their children. If a parent feels that their children’s issues are not being addressed satisfactorily, it makes sense for them to contact us directly.” Parents are then encouraged to contact their child’s faculty advisor who will guide them on the best course for communication.
John suggests that email is the most efficient way to initiate contact with faculty advisors. If parents are on campus and can meet a faculty advisor, a face-to-face chat can also be highly efficient when you are able to plan ahead. Parents can assume they will get an email reply from faculty within forty-eight hours, as faculty advisors will most likely reach out to your student and teachers before they respond to you. Depending on the situation, the faculty advisor may bring in additional people to support a student. For example, the advisor may suggest contacting the Office of the Dean of Students, Academic Dean, College Advising or Athletics. In some cases, when there is a high level of concern about a student, an interdisciplinary team of faculty members from the different offices will work together to develop a plan to help the student. A member of that team will be the designated liaison with the parents and the communications will be channeled through that person.
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