Here is a thing that happens to every parent: There’s somewhere you absolutely have to be – your current livelihood and possibly your future success depend on it – and all of your regular childcare options fall through. So often, they wind up staying home, knowing they’ll suffer for it. But sometimes, like in the case of one student at Morehouse College, they go with option B and bring the kid along.
On Friday, Nick Vaughn witnessed this scene in his math class, when his classmate, Wayne Hayer, showed up wearing his baby daughter in a carrier. The father explained to their professor, Nathan Alexander, that he couldn’t find a babysitter.
It turns out that this wasn’t a complete surprise.
“I try to tell my students early in the semester that if they ever need anything from me, to be in touch with me to let them know, and I really work to let them know that I mean that,” Alexander tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Hayer had mentioned in a previous conversation that getting his daughter from place to place sometimes prevented him from attending office hours and study sessions.
“I said feel free to bring her to my office,” Alexander says. “And Friday, he walks into the class and he says, ‘Hey, you said if I need anything to let you know. Here she is.’ ”
Alexander is the James King Jr. Visiting Professor of Mathematics Teaching at Morehouse, where he teaches mathematics education, statistical and mathematical modeling, and social networks and graphs. This particular course was algebra for liberal arts majors, he says. Because he keeps the atmosphere collaborative, with students teaching each other and writing on the white board, the baby’s presence wasn’t all that distracting.
“She was really well behaved,” he says. “I think we all enjoyed having her energy.”
Other students responding on Twitter said this was something they would expect from Alexander.
“@professornaite is one of my favorite professors!! Genuinely cares for the students and sacrifices his personal time always to help in any way possible. Nothing but respect (Ps. Sorry i wasnt in class today lol),” wrote @mustbethehype.
When sharing this anecdote on Twitter and Facebook, Vaughn said that Alexander’s gesture was part of the supportive environment students get at the all-male, historically black university.
“Not saying that at a [predominantly white institution] you won’t find this act, but here on the campus of Morehouse one of the iconic [historically black colleges and universities] in the world, it just felt more caring and from the heart,” Vaughn wrote.
Alexander agrees to some extent. “We build community, we make sure that we support our students in whatever they need, and that’s part of my commitment,” he says, but adds, “What I want to make sure that I underline is that I’m not special. Teachers do this stuff every day in their own way.”
Some commenting on Twitter recounted similar stories of parents relying on understanding educators.
“I used to take my son to class when I had him,” @witcheesepls wrote. “It was my last year but all my professors were very supportive! Glad to see there are other professors out there like that.”
And for all the praise being offered to Alexander, a few wanted to applaud Hayer for deciding not to give up on his education for the day.
“Huge respect for the prof obviously, but can we talk about the dad still showing up in the first place?!” wrote @LAM1086. “That’s one strong and dedicated student/parent. I woulda cried and stayed my ass home.”
This is a point that Alexander hopes that others can take away from this story, too. Not every professor can carry a baby during class, and not every kid would stand for that either.
“This brings attention to that fact that we need to sort of think about some of the systemic inequities for people that struggle with affording childcare,” Alexander says. “Women deal with this all the time as mothers, and so do men as fathers.”