“If You Believe…”

About once a year over my 40+ years leading schools, someone will share the following insight:

“If you believe half of what your child says happens at school, I will only believe half of what he says happens at home.” While I have never been particularly fond of the snarky sentiment, I think it does remind us that kids share things from their perspective. While it may not be intentionally wrong it is seen through very self-focused eyes. That is just natural.

But the end result of taking what a child says as complete and accurate can often produce hurt feelings and misunderstandings or worse.

Several years ago at another school, I had a teacher on staff who was one of the most diligent, prepared, efficient teachers I had ever worked with. Some folks had problems with the teacher’s personality. That could be understood and we worked on building strong relationships.

But other parents wrote me and told me that this teacher “doesn’t teach.” Frankly folks, that was one of the most blatantly incorrect and damaging things that could be said. And it tended to completely deflate this teacher, especially coming in a complaint to the principal, someone from whom the teacher sought approval. And the effect was multiplied when the parents ominously reported that “other parents feel the same way.”

The teacher was responsibly and responsively teaching every time I observed in the classroom. And every time I stood at the door and peeked in without the teacher knowing. And every time I had to deliver something or ask a question. And every time the teacher had to respond to an intercom call. And the teacher was here early and stayed late every day doing things the teacher believed would help students and parents. And the teacher regularly took courses and did research to enhance the experience for the students.

Where did this wildly insulting accusation come from? I cannot say for sure. But what I do know is that two things could have helped avoid this terribly demoralizing situation.

  1. Talk to the teacher before talking to other parents and before contacting the administrator.
  2. Do not take things shared from the student’s perspective and parrot it back as accurate and fair. A child’s views and experiences are important and may well be accurate. But as adults we have a responsibility to investigate before the child’s opinion becomes the established truth.

Jesus understood human relations with Godly wisdom and human experience. And he plainly stated that we are to approach those with whom with struggle directly and to do so with a desire to restore rather than tear down. He said, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”

In His Children’s service, Robert C. Boyd

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I did approach those complaining parents and carefully let them know their accusations were not only inaccurate but very hurtful. And I also encouraged them to speak directly to the teacher.

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