When a Morehouse College student couldn't find a sitter for his young daughter, Nathan Alexander said to bring her to class. He then proceeded to babysit the little girl so her father could "take good notes" during his lecture.

By Rebecca Macatee
March 04, 2019
Empty Classroom Whiteboard Blue Chairs
Credit: cozyta/Shutterstock

Math class is hard enough, but just imagine teaching a college course on it while babysitting someone else's child at the same time! That's exactly what Morehouse College professor Nathan Alexander, Ph.D., did Friday, and he somehow managed to make the whole thing look easy.

Nick Vaughn, a student in the class, tweeted a picture of Dr. Alexander holding the young daughter of another student, Wayne Hayer, while lecturing and working through math problems on a dry erase whiteboard. According to the caption of the photo (which has since been shared over 75,000 times), Alexander told the little girl's father, "I'll hold her so you can take good notes!"

Hayer was able to fully focus on the material being taught because his daughter, Assata, was perfectly content in the arms of the professor. It was Alexander's suggestion, actually, that Hayer bring the child to class if he wasn't able to find a sitter. When Hayer did just that, Dr. Alexander volunteered to help—even if he was a little nervous about taking care of young Assata.

"I'm not a father, I don't have children of my own," Dr. Alexander, 34, told BuzzFeed News. "I was worried that she would start crying. But it actually went perfectly. She was extremely well-behaved."

Alexander said he bounced the baby gently and patted her throughout the lecture. He even joked about lulling Assata to sleep as he taught, telling BuzzFeed News, "When she started falling asleep, I told the class 'I guess I'm being boring right now.'"

Of course, what Alexander did was anything but boring. He taught his students math and showed them how committed he was to helping them get an education.

Baby Assata's mom, Firda Amalia Hayer, was moved by Dr. Alexander's kindness towards her husband and her child. "I have not met Dr. Alexander personally, but I can tell he has a natural compassion for his students," she told Parents.com. "And to me, on that day, it meant a lot. I am extremely protective of my family, so anyone who extends that kind of genuine sympathy to them is a good person in my book."

The public response to the viral photo has moved Mrs. Hayer as well. "It's helped me to truly see that there's a whole community out there—a 'village,' if you will, that's willing to extend their hands out to take care of you and your family," she said. "While professors may not be available all the time to carry a student's baby during lecture, this story has brought out kind people that I may have never gotten acquainted with otherwise. I've had several moms personally [reach] out to me expressing their understanding and empathy."

The Hayers have felt the support from moms, dads, parents, non-parents, and even high-ups in the world of academia. David Thomas—the president of Morehouse College, an all-male historically black institution—was pleased to see what was happening in the viral photo. 

Thomas retweeted Vaughn's original picture of the professor holding little Assata, writing, "This is about #love and #commitment. Loving our students and being committed to removing any barrier to their pursuit of excellence. @Morehouse #goodnotesmatter"

What's encouraging still about this whole story is that Dr. Alexander isn't the only one in academia who truly cares. As he said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "I'm not an exception...We have teachers who (assist students in similar ways) every day."

Making accommodations to help students learn is just what educators do. As Dr. Alexander said, "Teachers do this in their own way every day...This is what they do."

Assata's father would agree. "I feel that no matter what level you teach at kindergarten or college, you have to be a nurturer and caring person to a certain degree," he told Parents.com. "Dr. Nathan Alexander is all of that and much more and I am forever indebted to his kindness and must pay it forward."