As a school administrator one of my responsibilities is to help manage school discipline. And as we know all to well, there are times when we have to make unpleasant phone calls. I also have the luxury of making positive phone calls home. But sometimes the difficult phone calls can be…well…difficult. These calls are part of the deal and keeping parents as informed as possible is something I believe is very important. I am not complaining. Just reflecting.
Oftentimes before I make a difficult phone call I try to place myself in the parents’ position. How would I want to receive the message that I am about to relay? Sometimes I feel I am effective and other times I am certain I am not.
Recently, I had to make a phone call that did not turn out at all like I had predicted. The call I had to make was to inform a parent that her child had been accidentally hurt by a child who had lost their temper. The student had thrown something that had hit her son. Her son was more startled than anything and he did not have any permanent injuries.
For me personally, these types of calls can be the most difficult to make. Difficult because one side is clearly wrong and one side is clearly innocent. Very often I am asked, What’s going to happen to the other kid? To which I must respond, and rightfully so, I am not allowed to discuss the other student’s consequences. Parents don’t usually like this response. I get it. I am a parent too. Who’s to say I wouldn’t ask the same question? I’d like to think that I would not ask that question. But to be honest, if I didn’t ask it then I’m sure I would be thinking it.
Back to the phone call. I called the number I had on record. All the while thinking about what I was going to say to make this go as smoothly as possible. Someone answered on the first few rings, but it wasn’t the child’s mother. They said they would connect me to her extension. Great! More time to think about what I was going to say.
Once I had the student’s mom on the phone I immediately explained to her what had taken place. Right away she breathed a sigh of relief. Which I must admit, took me by surprise. She was more concerned that I was calling to tell her that her son had been the one who had thrown something. And then she did something I will never forget.
She asked me about the other child. Not about his punishment and not about his consequences. She wanted to know if he was okay. She genuinely felt for this child who had just hit her own. I was taken back. What a beautiful response!
Since that day I have had to make other difficult phone calls. And as I mentioned before, difficult phone calls are difficult. But hopefully as I go to make these calls I will remember that
once in a while,
when we least expect it,
difficult calls surprise us,
because they are not so difficult.
they can be quite wonderful.