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The Bearer of Bad News

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that often in my role, I have to tell parents a lot of things they don't want to hear - their child is failing multiple courses or that their son or daughter's poor choices have resulted in a suspension. I think that becoming a parent and growing in this role while simultaneously growing my role as Vice Principal has had an effect that even I underestimated. I deal in fact so naively, I try to trick myself into thinking that if I stick only to the facts, I won't allow any emotional reaction or prediction of outcome interfere with how I conduct myself. Typically, the fact-finding process is pretty straight-forward - interview kids, searching lockers, viewing camera footage... Secretly, I hope though, that I'm not going to have to break a mother's heart with what I find. The other day, I conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. When the student and her mother came forward to see me, I could tell that it was not only difficult for the young lady to share her account, but it was equally if not more so difficult for her mother to sit quietly and listen. All I could think of my daughter and what if the roles were reverses and I was listening to her tell this story. It's moments like these where the internal fight to remain objective is real. There's a whole other side to this story, a young man, who also has a mother, whose heart is also going to be smashed to pieces when she hears about what has been alleged. Within minutes of this investigation reaching its conclusion, I met with a mother and her son who is so credit deficient he's basically a year behind his peers and I had to have a very frank conversation with a mother who has clearly done all that she could to avoid this very scenario, but was now having to hear about the prospects of her son either not graduating from school or having to leave to finish his diploma in an alternative education program. Both situations are obviously different but the result is the same. In moments like these I default my thinking to the wisdom of one of my mentors - what one positive thing can you take away from today? For me, being thanked by all moms for looking out for their children, despite the possible outcome, is always it for me. I think that if a Vice Principal can demonstrate that if the shoe were on the other foot and roles were reversed parents could trust that the same amount of time and effort would be invested in seeing to safety and security of their child, parents are grateful. Parents, I think, would rather their son or daughter have a Vice Principal who was paying attention to the state of academic affairs and sending out flares in October rather than offering limited options in June when it's too late.

Comments

  1. Objectiveness is one of those things that looks good on paper but never seems to pan out in real life. And sometimes that is a blessing. I had the best vice-principal ever. She was strict and stern and just the sweetest woman. Our vice-principals followed us from 7th grade to 12th. They get a grade and that's their group to follow. My vice-principal got to meet me early in 7th grade, when I had what I now know was my first bipolar mixed episode. She treated me very kindly and kept an eye on me. Which didn't mean she didn't call my mother when I got in trouble the next year. I forget what I did. The next morning I showed up with a black eye. While I wouldn't say what happened, she didn't call my mother again. I found myself living with a friend after my mother and I would fight. If my vice-principal had reason to speak to a parent, she called my friend's mom. She treated me fairly, and she never let me get away with anything. She told me I had to work harder than other people, and that sucked, but it was no excuse to give up. I wouldn't have made it without her.
    You'll be objective, because that's what will serve most of your students best. But when you feel that tug at your heart, answer it. You don't know what future teacher is out there, just waiting for you to get her through the tough times.

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