Friday, April 8, 2011

Take Your Time

As we enter what Cale Birk (@birklearns) described as "the month of AprilMayJune" in a recent blog post (here), he reminded us to take the time to reflect and ask yourself some important questions about your work.  I would like to add to Cale's comments the reminder to take your time and think carefully and investigate thoroughly the issues you are dealing with.  Sometimes in haste, we make assumptions that can lead to errors in judgement. I made such an error today, and the issue ended up taking me longer than it should have and could have fractured a relationship between a student and myself.

I was dealing with a discipline issue that a teacher brought to me when two students were exchanging menacing comments and threats with one another.  One of the students was well-known to me for his history of non-attendance and poor achievement.  The other boy had no history whatsoever and was a quality student.  The two combatants had very different stories, and eventually I brought them together in hopes of resolving the issue.  Both boys stuck by their stories in the presence of the other and I was in a rush to get back to some of the timetabling and report card issues I was dealing with.   Rather than take the extra time to speak with other classmates who may have been witnesses, I sided with the student who had no history of poor decision-making, warned the boys to leave each other alone, and sent them back to class with a warning (since nothing serious had come from the comments).  I know better than this, but tired and rushed, I skipped some critical steps...

As you can imagine, the young man I did not believe was upset with me and his counterpart when he went back to class.  My gut was uneasy, so I backtracked and decided to speak with a couple of potential witnesses, just to confirm my suspicion.  Much to my surprise, the witnesses corroborated the story of the young man whom I did not believe.  Immediately, I needed to go back and speak with the boys again, first to reprimand the student with no history of dishonesty, and help him understand the damage he had done to his reputation, and then with the boy whose story I thought was inaccurate.  I apologized to him, and to his credit, he accepted it and smiled.  The issue between the boys was significantly improved after I spoke with them a second time, and the day continued without incident.  I was fortunate I listened to my gut and followed up, but wish I had done so in the first place.  In my haste to get back to the many other tasks I was working on, I ended up spending more time sorting out the problem than I would have if I had taken the time it required in the first place.  Worse, I risked a relationship with a student, and made him feel unheard.  I can offer no excuses, only an apology.  I am fortunate that my apology was accepted, no further issues came of it and the relationship between us was salvaged.

So, as Cale suggested, take time to reflect and ask yourself some important questions, but also take the time to investigate as you know you should.  It will likely save time in the long run, and will help maintain the quality relationships you have worked so hard to develop.  The busyness will eventually pass, but reputations and relationships last much longer.

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