Perhaps it’s the stress of the economy or simply the pressures of the closing of the year. I’ve been getting a few more calls from parents than usual. That’s what I get for being accessible I guess.
I try to return all calls within 24 hours and sometimes, if you catch me in, I am available for those who just drop in.
Why do they come to the superintendent? They're mad. Mad at their child’s teacher. Mad at the coach. Mad at the bus driver. Mad at the principal. Usually their madness is based upon something their child has told them. They presume that their child was 100% accurate in his/her retelling of an event at school in which they believe they were treated unfairly.
It is amazing how many believe going to the top will get the action they need. What I usually end up doing is counseling the parent to return to the chain of command and discuss what happened with the adult who was there. So, based upon more than 30 years of helping people in my community resolve their problems with the local school I offer these tips.
• When your child comes home from school crying or complaining about an incident in which they believe they were not treated with fairness, take what they say with a grain of salt. I’m not suggesting that your child is lying. I’m just suggesting that he is telling of the event from his perspective.
• Ask your child the name of the adult who made the decision that presently upsets them. (Bus Driver Bob, teacher Mrs. Cadaver, Coach Dragon) Contact the school and ask for an appointment to meet with that person. You would be surprised how clearer the picture gets when you hear another point of view. We all see better when we use both eyes.
• Don’t go to the appointment mad. Wait a day or two and cool down. If you are angry when you meet, things will not go well. What does the fact that you are angry have to do with the truth? Stay calm, tell the individual what your child has told you and indicate you want to hear his/her perspective before you jump to judgment.
• If, after hearing the other point of view, you are convinced the matter was poorly handled and you were unable to reach some reasonable resolution then you move up the change to the supervisor.
• For most issues, that would be the principal. Make an appointment to see the principal
• If there is no satisfaction from meeting with the principal, then contact me.
Years ago a parent called me to complain about a poor teacher. I asked her what she thought of the principal of the school. She loved him – thought he was a great principal. I told her that from what she was telling me, I would have to fire the principal because he was allowing a poor teacher to continue in the profession. Doing something with an ineffective teacher was not my job, but his. It was my job to deal with ineffective principals.
Jumping to the superintendent over something that could well be a misunderstanding and easily resolved with a little conversation in the classroom is like reaching for the shotgun when all you need is a flyswatter. Make that call. 99% of the issues get resolved at that level. Believe me. You’ll be glad you did and your child will learn how to resolve problems by your example.