I’ve had that call from a school to tell me that my child has done the wrong thing.
And when you’re a Principal receiving that message from another Principal who you thought was ringing to tell you about ‘Principally’ things … only to find out that it wasn’t that kind of call, it’s especially confronting. If you could match your sympathy for me to the sensitivity my colleague Sheila Delahay showed on that day, I’d be most appreciative.
But let me be honest with you. I nearly messed that whole thing up. Despite 20-ish years of practicing restoratively and knowing intimately the impact of shame on fallible humans, I almost conjured a shame response rich with blame for Sheila’s teachers and reserving a little breath for excuses for my kid.
Imagine being a parent without that background and receiving that call. It’s little wonder they lose the plot on us sometimes.
I know that the parent interactions many schools are experiencing at the moment are negative and toxic. I also know they’re hard to hear, invite arguments and are routinely offensive.
But I also know that it’s just their shame talking. And there’s no moment for inducing shame like when you’re suddenly informed that your child is short of the mark.
What Sheila did for me was hold a space where I could navigate back to my rational brain from my shame response. She listened to me without judgement. Despite my best efforts, I was flustered and spoke some emotional gibberish.
Sheila didn’t argue with me, preferring just to listen. She was respectful and kind to me at the time when I possibly least deserved it.
If you’re finding yourself waiting for your most fractious, anxious and shame-riddled parents to deserve your respect and kindness, then I suggest you get used to waiting.
Give your parents what they need rather than what they deserve. Because, when it comes to deserving, you deserve some progress with those parents.
Keep fighting that good fight,
PS. I’m always open to chatting about partnering with your school to transform your school culture. If you’d like to chat about the challenges you’re facing in your school, reply to this email or click here, and we’ll make the conversation happen.
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