Friday, June 1, 2012

A Fine Line

I work at my kids' school. As a staff member, there are things that I am not privy to because I am also a parent. I strive to differentiate between parent and staff. Sometimes, it can be a fine line. It may also be hard for others to know where that line is. It is important for me and my colleagues to be attentive to the line. When I explain the "Scenario" you will understand why.

Parent/Staff Distinction - Example 1
I am the admissions and marketing director. In my capacity, I should have access to the financial aid (FA) documents to ensure they have been received in a timely manner and work with the financial aid committee to determine acceptance of FA requests. However, as a parent, I should not know who is receiving FA and certainly not how much. To maintain parent confidentiality and retain impartiality a non-parent on staff handles this.

Parent/Staff Distinction - Example 2
We have a great staff and faculty that I love dearly but they are are not my Facebook friends. Our school policy (and my personal policy) is to refrain from social media contact with students and alumni under 18 years of age and it is advised to refrain from social media contact with parents. I am not even FB friends with my principal whom I consider a friend.

School Environment
Our school teachers, classrooms, staff are very open and accessible within the school environment. If kindergarteners are working on a project to find and name purple items, they freely walk in and out of any classroom or office they need to. It sounds chaotic but there are controls and checks and balances in place - i.e. kids walk around in pairs, closed doors are off limits, etc. Our school is a safe environment for students to gather knowledge.

The Scenario
I returned to my desk to find a note from a student. The note said that my son had yelled in her face in after school care and could she please discuss it with me that day. I was livid! If I were any other parent, that student would not have been permitted to walk across town to my office and leave me a note. I put the note aside and went about my busy schedule (6 tours, 3 meetings, and lots of projects due).

At my first opportunity, I asked my principal if I was wrong to think the school should deal with it first. She agreed with me. I said I would reach out to the teacher.

Bad Timing
To compound matters, my son's class was out of school from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm on a Learning Excursion to our state capital. Under normal circumstances, I would have been able to ask the girl's teacher to pull my son out of class and work on conflict resolution. Under normal circumstances, I would have asked my son about it when we got home. As it was, we got home at 7:50 pm and he was in bed by 8:00 pm.

Work It Out
It is a private Christian school that adheres to biblical principles when dealing with conflict resolution. This means the offended party goes to the offending party and tries to work it out. Our teachers are amazing at helping our students voice their feelings and concerns and allowing an opportunity for forgiveness and grace. If the situation cannot be resolved student to student with teacher direction, the teacher initiates next steps. Throughout, students are learning valuable life skills.

The Dad
The girl's father approached me the next morning at my desk. He wanted me as a parent to know what had happened and for us to resolve the situation. Dad said my son had apologized at the time but that his daughter did not think the apology sincere and that she was distraught over the situation all long weekend and much of the school week.

I explained Parent/Staff Distinction, Bad Timing, and Work It Out. Told dad my son needed an opportunity to rectify the situation without parent involvement and that I would discuss it with my son afterwards. Dad hugged me and left.

Rock and Hard Place
This dad and I have worked on committees together and he is an active, involved parent. The 10% that you can always count on to step up to volunteer. If I screwed up in this parent situation, I could cost my employer a great volunteer and a tuition paying student.

The teacher read my email and came to me. She apologized for not reading the girl's note first. Had she read it, she would not have allowed her to come to me. It was just a rare oversight on the teachers' part. Teacher said she would get the two students to talk it through. And she did. And it was resolved student to student. You see now why I love my kids' teachers and this school?

The Whole Story
The kids were playing dodge ball. Motor Mouth explained to Girlie that she was out. While that was going down, Motor Mouth yelled something to the effect of, "Aw man! Holy crap!" because a dodge ball almost hit him. Girlie thought he was yelling this to her and up close in her face.

1 comment:

CatherineMarie said...

I do agree with you about the Facebook thing. Sounds like a fantastic school.... and that folks have thought intelligently about the pitfalls/issues...