I’ve decided there are some things I just shouldn’t say until I’ve heard them outside my head first. I think people over-estimate the ability of “professional communicators” to effectively communicate in every situation. There are some situations where I cannot remove my own personal bias. My own personal emotional triggers. But people assume that, because they’ve seen me clearly, calmly and non-emotionally communicate every type of situation for my job, I will also carry that same level of detachment into every conversation. Well, here’s a newsflash. What they see is the FINAL draft. A distilled version of the Real.
The most important part of the process to create authentic communication (in my opinion) is finding a voice that is relatable. Showing enough emotion to demonstrate compassion and empathy without muddying the water. Getting the facts straight is a given. So, what happens when that emotional line is too close to the surface? When I haven’t had enough time to process through my emotions to get to a rational, centered (*cough* level path) response? Or, my systematic beliefs differ from those with whom I’m communicating? That’s where the task of communication becomes drastically more difficult. And I find I’m all out of answers.
That brings me to talking to myself. An English teacher of my youth always advised reading a written thing out loud so you could hear any weird syntax errors or oddly structured sentences/paragraphs. I’ve taken this advice to heart and, to this day, no written communication leaves my desk until it’s been read out loud. Quality control, you might say. That has somehow spilled over into my spoken presentation as well. Sometimes, something sounded good in my head, but once I get it outside I realize how dumb/angry/defensive/flippant/whatever I sound. That is a red flag to change my approach BEFORE I say it in the course of a conversation and hurt somebody’s feelings. Mom says that’s part of growing up. (please don’t remind me that I’m the mom now.)
This brings me to today. I have a conversation planned with a teacher. A friend. An excellent educator. One I hold in the highest esteem. But. (yes, Mom, I know what that means) She’s taken exception to a certain pattern of behavior and I don’t really understand at a level I can intelligently relay back to Munchkin the expectations to achieve a satisfactory “grade.” (Yes, I know it’s February – this just started happening, ok?) So we are meeting this afternoon. [insert ominous music here] The dreaded parent-teacher conference. Not because of any academic reason. But because there seems to be a disconnect in their expectation, my perception and Munchkin’s performance.
I readily admit Munchkin can be a challenge. A bright, shiny, wonderful, exasperating, infuriating, delightfully brilliant challenge. She is my joy and my truest test of patience. I easily identify places where I have not been as consistent, but I also acknowledge never giving up; always admitting my lapse and picking the gauntlet back up and getting back in the fight. Because it’s worth it. She is worth it. Mercy so, but I love her – how could I do anything less? She deserves my absolute best effort. And I think, MOST of the time, that’s what I give her. And, while there are days where I want to rip my hair out or grind my teeth into dust, I see so many flashes of the incredible heart and spirit of that child; I KNOW I am on the right track.
So, how do I effectively advocate for her when I’ve heard one side of the story and taking responsibility for one’s behavior is our current
battleground learning opportunity at home? How do I balance needing to give her the benefit of the doubt and partnering with the school in teaching Munchkin to respect the rules set forth by ALL adults; even the rules we (meaning mom) think are stupid/illogical/irrational/impossible? How do I separate my loathing of the Stepford method of classroom management adopted by the District and the need to keep order in a classroom filled with children; some with no sense of discipline at all? How do I keep from coming off as “that Mom” who never thinks her kid does anything wrong; while still raising a red flag and saying, “Come now, let’s reason together?”
I talk to myself. That’s how. I spend a great part of the day practicing how I will communicate that I think asking a child (any child; not just my child) to sit still and quiet and never get up and never blurt out and never talk above a whisper and automatically know (at 10) how to be kind, patient, fair, unselfish and how to NOT be immature or otherwise obnoxious all day, every single day is STUPID, IRRATIONAL and UNREALISTIC. That I think the conduct grade is nothing more than a math formula; lacking any kind of big-picture, whole child LOGIC or COMMON SENSE at all; solely based on a number of “offenses” divided by the number of days in a grading period. 9 marks; regardless of the severity (or lack of) is considered “not satisfactory.” 9 marks in six weeks. That’s one a week, with three exceptions where you get two. I don’t know that I could go five days without somebody telling me (when I was 10) to sit down, Regina; raise your hand, Regina; please let them do their own work, Regina. That’s three in 10 seconds. I’d be branded a trouble-maker too. Shoot, I don’t know if I could do that NOW.
Like I said before, I’m NOT saying she is never difficult. Lord knows that would be laughable. And I’m also not saying I don’t want to know when she’s disrupting instruction with her impulsiveness. I want to know when she fails to be kind, patient, fair and unselfish; or she’s being immature or otherwise obnoxious. That is part training up her character. But talking? Laughing? Being out of her seat? What am I supposed to do with that at 6 o’clock at night; when the offense happened at 10am? Kind of makes you want to throw your hands up, doesn’t it?