I’ve been an administrator in my home district for three years now and 99% of the time I find it to be a huge advantage. It’s been my sense that it actually provides me with a bit more credibility, sort of a “she’s one of us” boost. Since I’m going to work every day trying to make a difference, it’s extremely rewarding to me that it also benefits my own kid, along with my nephews and niece, and the children of my friends. G-Town means a lot to me and if I succeed or fail professionally, in many ways, it’s my personal success or failure as well.
Today I sat in a meeting with four parents and two teachers. I was there as the principal but the situation we were discussing also involved my son and my nephews. It involved my sister in law, two other moms I’ve known for many years, and one mom I’ve not met before. It involved two teachers whom I hold in very high regard.
I’ve mediated parent/teacher conversations many times. Some have been extremely heated and I’ve always walked away feeling like I’d done a good job. I’ve tried hard to make sure everyone was heard, that they were treated fairly, that all parties could feel supported by me, even if they weren’t happy with the decision.
Today was different in that it was impossible for me to stay in either the role of principal or parent. The two roles converged and as objective as I was, it was a tough place to sit. It also was a complicated situation in which there was no easy solution. I’ve always thought that my strong personal investment in our school and our kids was an asset. Today it felt more like a liability and I’m left wondering if anyone felt supported by me.
I understood the parent point of view and the deep emotion that comes with raising a child and the commitment to always advocate for our kids, at the same time that we kick them in the butt when needed. I’ve lived the teacher’s point of view and I know with 100% certainty, that while we make mistakes, we are most often well intended.
As the principal, it was hard to sit squarely in the middle. I kept thinking about fairness, support, integrity, honesty–I hope those things carried me through that meeting today and that everyone left better for our time spent talking.
When ever I hear about a parent having an issue with a teacher or the school, I can’t help but think about the time my brother came home and said that the school made him and a friend shovel the tennis court. How he drew sympathy from my mother because he didn’t even have gloves or a hat to wear. And the fact that my father had to stop her at the door as she was leaving to give them a piece of her mind. The real story is that where we went to school, you had a choice between extension and working off your punishment during study hall. Usually the work off punishment entailed scrapping gum off of desks, or washing lockers. But my brother and his friend, thought that it would be funny for their classmates to watch them shovel the tennis courts and volunteered. A little jewel of information that he choose to leave out when he told my mother the story. I hope that when my kids come home in trouble that I remember to think about this, get both sides of the story (because kids always put themselves in the best light) and then react. Kids are kids, it is their job to try to get away with stuff, and they are experts at it.
Very few have to sit where we sit. I’ve been through something very similar. It was in my second year where I am currently. It is very difficult to remain fair and objective when you have a personal stake. If, at the end, you can look all the people in the room in the eye and tell them you did your best, you were fair and you were dealing with the situation, then you did a great job. Unfortunately, my experience didn’t end the way I wanted, the family moved schools but, in the end, it was probably best for everyone. Sometimes, when you remain objective and don’t side where people think you should, they try to point the “favouritism finger”. If you’ve remained true to who you are, it won’t stick. Sounds like you did a fabulous job in a very delicate and difficult situation.
I am sure you were nothing less than fabulous.