This week in #EDUin30, I asked the question, “If there is an incident in school (with a student), how do you communicate with families?“, to help educators that are probably going into the interview process coming up, or to share with educators that have any number of years of experience. With the number of ways that we can communicate, my fear is that we go away from the things that are most important. For example, I always caution educators to NEVER deliver bad information through an email. Without hearing tone or sometimes losing context, this can make a bad situation much worse. This is one of those examples of things in education that does not need to change. Face-to-face, or a phone call, is still a much better alternative.
When I was an assistant-principal, I remember my secretary at the time communicating something with me that I still remember to this day. She said something like, “When you call a parent about something bad that their child has done, just know that you are probably going to destroy their world, even if it is only for a short amount of time. Make sure they know that you still care about their child.” This advice never left me.
So when I would talk to students about something that happened that was less than desirable, I would focus on two questions; “Why are you here?”, followed by “What would you do in my position?” It was important to let the kids talk and work there way through the situation, as opposed to me solving the issue. I want them to be able to deal with situations without my presence, and these questions created independence and accountability to themselves.
After we would work through the situation, I would call home, with the child in the office. Why this was important was I would talk to their parent or guardian, and start off by telling them any positives that I saw with their child, but then share with them that they had an incident at school, and then would pass the phone over to the child to explain. This ensure that they learned to take accountability for their actions while also making sure there was no miscommunication. They would also share how we would move forward after the fact. After this conversation, I would talk to the parent or guardian, and share the process, and often, how proud I was of their child for taking accountability and working through their problem, and then often remind them that all of us, make mistakes. It was important for both the child and the guardian to know that I valued them and that none of us are perfect. Did I do this 100% of the time? No, because certain situations called for something different, but this was pretty standard practice, and a far removal from the notion of the school principal yelling at a kid from making a mistake, which I have seen far too often.
There are so many times that things happen in school, and no matter the community, I can guarantee mistakes will be made. What is important is that we work with our families and communities to let them know that we value each child, and sometimes especially when they screw up. It is easy to love when all is perfect, but it is more crucial to do it when it is not. I am forever grateful to that secretary for sharing something with me that has stuck with me for so many years.
— George Couros (@gcouros) May 9, 2015