Saturday, March 10, 2018

Lessons for Teachers #9: Oops

Once upon a time when I was a was a wee lad of a teacher, a student needed to make up a test. Lo! The naughty boy did not do so when he should have, so the grade was not posted for his mother, Mrs. Periwinkle, to see when she was looking for it. So when dear Mrs. Periwinkle wrote me to inquire, I said it had then been entered.

Alas, the plot then thickened. Little did neophyte I know that when I entered a grade it wasn't automatically updated on the school database. So the boy's dear mama writes again, inquiring. I update it manually and reply. It's still not showing up so she can see it, so she writes me a third time. Little did I know again that the administrators don't check updates to the database, rather they reference a printout which is, obviously, not current. So I update it on paper in the office. She writes one last time requesting a signed confirmation from an administrator.

Now what I wanted to do was deliver a full-throated Ciceronian lambasting to the staff who made me look like a jackass by not explaining how the lousy software they were using worked and moreover how illogically it was employed.

Instead I replied graciously and took my lumps, opting not to throw anyone under the bus and not even complaining up the chain because I was new at  the job. A few lessons:

First, when you get an email that flusters or frustrates you, don't respond right away. Take time to cool off.

Second, don't be quick to get defensive and blame parents, especially when they're just trying to get information and especially when mistakes have, in fact, been made. Lack of communication is extremely frustrating, and many parents are already defensive because they know they are not as informed as they should be. Add to that low grades for their kid and fears about college, and you have a recipe for stress over what seems slight to you. They'll really appreciate it if, above all things, you are prompt, clear, and take responsibility.

Third, don't lightly throw people under the bus, but it is alright in most cases to let them know they put you in a tight spot.

Finally, take your lumps. I had no reason to expect the software and manner in which the school used it would be so convoluted, but ultimately knowing was my responsibility.

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