Communications

“If at first you don’t succeed, maybe you weren’t cut out for sky diving”

I think about this every time that I read a story that looks like this.

Teacher has enough of the BS her kids give her so quits after posting an epic rant online

It’s not the “epic rant” that does it.  It’s the fact that we’re hearing yet another story of someone leaving the profession.

It’s not a new phenomenon; it’s just that social media allows for a bigger and more widespread voice and traditional media seems delighted to carry the story and report on the content.

While this story originated in the United Kingdom, the teacher involved was from the United States.  It might just as easily happen in your school.  I know that, personally, I witnessed some colleagues that left the profession and I was also on doubting end of my own career choice at times.  We’ve all have the “good class” and then the varying levels of other classes.

Finger pointing goes at students, parents, the system, administration, … actually, everyone but the teacher involved.

It made me reflect on my own situation.  At the Faculty of Education, we were told about the importance of communication with parents.  Ditto from my Department Head in the days leading up to my first parent/teacher night.

But the thing is that other than this trivial overview advice, I had no idea what to expect with my first encounters with parents.  Until that point, the only communication that I had had was the occasional telephone call home.

A message that I heard from Wayne Hulley still resonates.  “These are the only kids that the parents have.  They don’t keep the good ones at home.”  I wonder if we could substitute “parents” for “kids”!

Turn to today and we hear all the horror stories.  We also live in a day of technology that I was never prepared for.  Classes and teachers share their stories with blogs.  Teachers can be reached via email and directly in the classroom with class phones and certainly Skype or Skype-like tools.  If anyone doesn’t like anything, social media outlets provide a platform for sharing that displeasure.

Later as a Program Consultant, we ran a series of workshops for new teacher induction but the content was based upon a world that didn’t exist in today’s reality.  Even today, districts are buying and implementing tools for the home/school connection.  But, with the implementation of any tool, there is the need for ongoing and continuous support and professional discussion about how best to use it that goes far beyond the district posting a badge saying that “we’re a ###### using board”.

Thankfully, we’re dealing more frequently with Mental Health issues and we’re not afraid to discuss these moments or to be a set of ears for others.

But, is this enough?

How do you cope?  How do you help colleagues cope?

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6 comments

  1. These are great questions, and I’m not sure that there are any easy answers. Here’s what I try to consider:

    1) Make the first connection with parents, positive. Help build a relationship between both of you. It’s important.

    2) Try to talk face-to-face or over the phone with parents if there are problems. Then you hear their response and can continue the dialogue. Less is left open for interpretation…like an email.

    3) Stay calm, or calm down before beginning the discussion. Try to understand different perspectives. It’s not always easy, but it does help keep things more positive.

    4) Take a little time. If the topic is contentious or you’re angry or upset, take time to calm down and feel better first. This will change the sound of the dialogue.

    5) Keep the focus on the child. What can we do to help/support the child? Remember that this is not the blame game. This really does tend to help!

    6) Ask for help if needed. I’ve even brought questions to principals first, heard advice, and then followed up. That different perspective helps.

    7) Find a trusted friend. Vent openly if needed (not online), and then problem solve ideas together. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone.

    Curious to hear what others suggest!
    Aviva

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I realized that without coffee, I kind of misread/misunderstood this post on first read. I’d like to change my answer. 🙂 I cope thanks to Self-Reg. I try to understand my stressors better, and I know what makes me feel calm (eg, reading, a coffee, some time with a friend). I take the time for me, & that includes time during the day. I always take a lunch break now — I never did before — but the impact on my well-being is big. We matter too, & the better we feel, the better the impact on kids. The connection between our well-being and the well-being of those we teach is huge! Curious to hear others responses.

    Aviva

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s an interesting statement about coffee being a relaxer for you. That’ contrary to popular thought unless you’re drinking decaf!

    I don’t think that you have to worry about misunderstanding the post; your original reply had some great ideas for all. Thanks for sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Doug! The coffee thing is interesting. For me, I think it’s all about amount. A cup or two is calming. Too many is dysregulating, and I find myself needing to drink water to calm down. It’s kind of like what I notice with some of our kids at school. Sensory play is calming for many, but too long there — and too much time smoothing out the clay or having hands in the water — and it’s no longer calming. It’s funny how what can calm us down at one time can dysregulate us at another. Thanks for some more food for thought before school’s even begun! 🙂

    Aviva

    P.S. I never drink decaf! What’s the point?! 🙂

    Like

  5. If I quit early it will be all on me. Sure there are frustrations with kids at times (the one who asks about improving their grade 5 minutes after the quarter grades have been submitted or the student who has to be reminded daily for 6 weeks before they hand in the project due earlier) but that’s really my job to deal with. Students are not ready emotionally or mentally to make great decisions yet.

    There are days I feel my patience about to leave me and I take some deep breaths and try to calm down. Teaching at a Catholic school there is a quiet chapel in the building where I can find some real peace. And there are adults in the building I can talk to. Others in the department, campus ministry, administrators, and friends. I’m in a family of educators (wife and daughter in law are teachers, son is an elementary school principal) so there are people at home who understand and that helps.

    At the end of the day I like to get lost in a fun piece of escapism fiction for an hour or so.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m really working on identifying these for me, because I am the person who occasionally just puts my head down on my desk and cries at the end of the day. Yes, even after 20+ years in the job.

    1) adjust your expectations – every day is not going to go well, every class is not going to go well. Do the best you can with what you bring on that day. Be kind to yourself, and extend the same kindness to the humans you share the space with.

    2) get out of the physical space if it’s not helping. At the end of the day, if you know you have prep to do, and you’re just not going to do it at home, go for a walk, even around the building, before you settle in. Breathe air that doesn’t smell like 25 Grade 7/8’s. Listen to bird song, look at blue (or grey or whatever) sky.

    3) Try your absolute darndest not to bring the crap home. I’m bad at this one, and my children will tell you that. Often, when they were younger, I was less patient with them than I should have been because I’d been patient with a whole bunch of other kids all day. If it’s really been rough, talk to somebody (maybe your spouse, but maybe a teaching friend – it makes it easier on your spouse), and let it out.

    4) Wind down – do it on the walk home, the drive home, the workout after you get home, while you’re watching TV or knitting, or whatever. Figure out some way to let the yuck go, and hold onto the good stuff. Put on the B52’s Love Shack and dance around the kitchen while you’re making dinner (really, this one works).

    5) Develop the part of you that isn’t a teacher. Develop your teacher self, too, but, as I’m learning this year, that’s not the only person you are. Sing in a choir, play in a band, knit with friends, volunteer at the local soup kitchen, find a worship community where you feel welcome, work out with a buddy, play with your kids, plan a trip somewhere, learn a language, read a really, really good book! Dive into the internet rabbit hole about things that aren’t education. This can be challenging if you see teaching as a vocation, the way I do, but it’s an absolute sanity saver

    6) go back to #1.

    Okay – guess this could have been a blog post in response to your prompt. Maybe it still will be. Going back to work on an assignment I don’t want to write for my AQ course. Thanks for the procrastination break.

    Like

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