"Student" families

I hate being labeled as a "student" family. OK, so Bryan is a student, so I guess the literal label is appropriate. What I don’t like is all the baggage that comes with it. Usually, a "student" is someone who:

  1. Can and will move out at any time, usually within a year ("short-term"), and will often be gone unexpectedly during the summer for an internship.
  2. Will not put his/her full effort into a calling or may be flaky (and just not show up to fulfill the calling, without telling anyone).
  3. Will not take appropriate care of the home they live in because "they are just renters." (If you are a student but actually decided to buy a home, then you are looked upon as more permanent as you are "landed.")

Living in a family ward in the middle of Provo means I run into this a bit. It’s not directed specifically toward our family, but I feel the bias from conversations around me.

One sister asked me about our moving plans, then mourned to another sister that "we are losing a lot of good people this summer–even some stable families!" This same sister then spoke of neighbors who were troublesome and lamented that the neighboring home was rented, not owned by someone who would take care of it.

OK, so she grouped us with "good people." But I do want to point out that just because we are not homeowners doesn’t mean we aren’t "stable." We have been in this ward for four years (or rather in the same area–the ward was reorganized around us). We made it a point to try to stay in the same ward when we had to find a larger apartment for our growing family. And frankly, given the economy right now and how often people have job transfers, four years isn’t shabby, even for homeowners. And our upcoming move to Atlanta will not take anyone by surprise–we’ve been talking about it for months so that our leaving won’t leave anyone or anything hanging.

One brother has declared he hates that students are in the ward and wishes that students were required to go to a student ward (which, unfortunately, tends to have a reputation of catering to the stereotypical student–I’ve even heard rumors that one student ward boasted that those who attended WOULDN’T need to have callings!).

Ironically, this brother is also a renter. What makes a student renter any "worse" than a non-student renter?

Another brother–one who has been a leader in the stake–also made it clear that he felt students would not put the appropriate time into their callings. They just don’t have as much of an interest in taking things seriously. (Bryan felt he won him over in time, though).

To be perfectly honest, though, the real reason this bugs me so much is that it is actually pretty true. There are some, like us, who stay for years–some even longer than we have. Perhaps many. But there are also very many who move by the yearly contract–or sooner. I’ve even known some to be here for only six weeks, and being here only for the summer is not really uncommon. Even those who have stayed for a while are easily grouped with the much more transient when they leave during the wards tri-yearly "purges" (in April, August, December). It is hard to spend the time to train someone for a calling when they are only going to be around for a few months.

I run into this a lot, actually, when we need to find a new teacher for Primary. A single class usually has at least two sets of teachers through the calendar year–right now, in June, we already have one class that is on its third set. And not because the children are nasty. Just because the teachers are students. And students move–for better rent or location, for an internship or new job, or for a bigger apartment (i.e., having a baby and needing room for it!).

And I have also experienced the kind-of-flaky: a sister who gave one week’s notice that she and her husband were leaving on an internship. Then, at the end of summer, she came back, fully expecting to take her calling back on. (That was actually lucky for us, though, since the two other people called to take her spot had unexpectedly moved during the summer.) Even more representative are the number of times when teachers just don’t show up. No notice. No substitute. What did they expect the children (or, in one case, toddlers) to do while they were gone?

And I do concede that renters don’t always take as good care of the property as owners (or at least don’t tend to try to improve it as much). And I know from experience that distant apartment owners often do try to cut corners on upkeep to cut their expenses (like the fact that our maintenance workers still haven’t fixed the holes they cut in our walls in April).

So, I understand where the bias is coming from. I just don’t like having it applied to us, or to those like us who are trying to be dependable and helpful.

Thanks for reading my little rant. :)

One Response to “"Student" families”

  1. Amen, sister. As I read this, I thought back over the past few years trying to remember if I’d ever been a flake because we’ve always worked pretty closely in our callings. I hate working with flaky people, so I try really, really hard not to be flaky myself. Although I’m not perfect, I agree with you that I don’t like being lumped in with the stereotypical “student couple” because I try not to be like that.

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