(Disclaimer: Since I published this yesterday, I received some negative feedback accusing me of passing on rumors and falsehoods, thereby jumping to conclusions in the same manner as the people I am judging. So, to be clear: 1) I understand that the behavior to which I am referring is not representative of the whole group, 2) as I have stated emphatically in previous posts, I recognize that there are many sides to any issue, and 3) I am not a member of the group, so my response is based on hearsay — albeit from multiple sources. The point of this article is to encourage us all to stop and think about how to handle differences constructively.)
So, the story behind the post is quite personal to me. Our school’s beloved principal of who-knows-how-many-years retired last year, and a new principal was hired to follow her. As is common with these sorts of events, change has occurred.
Of course, social media has changed the face of the rumor-mill, but not the nature. A “private” group has been giving feedback on our new principal that has gone far beyond negative – some of it has been downright hateful.
This new principal has been a beloved member of our community for years. I first met her as the librarian of one of our local elementary schools, and gladly introduced my daughter to her when my daughter began middle school – yes, the individual in question had changed her job slightly. My now-principal, then-daughter’s-librarian took my daughter under her wing and (as she has for countless children), nurtured her in ways that I could not. Eventually, my colleague moved into administrative positions – always looking fairly and equitably at all sides of the issue – and then was selected to lead a superior school.
The parents who are complaining apparently don’t know her history or her nature. They are just experiencing change, and they are angry. Sadly, the behavior that I am witnessing has caused me to question how well we, as a community and a nation, are actually “adulting.”
- Believing exaggerated rumors: Somehow, the enforcement of a district-wide policy of having students dismiss in an orderly (after all, what could go wrong with nearly 800 small children being released chaotically?) manner morphed into silent lunch and even silent recess. Did we, as adults, lose our ability to reason and think? All but about 5 of the staff in the building are the same people who loved and cared for your children last year. Did our new principal walk in and exert mind-control over all of us? No one I have EVER met in education would expect children to be silent all day! Our ancestors valued something called “common sense.” There’s a reason they did!
- Driving away voices of reason: While “discuss” is in the title of the group page, the group administrator has been banning those who speak out against the bashing that is going on. How is that discussion? Are we secretly aware that our positions are so weak that we can’t associate with anyone who dissents? One of the things that I had always looked forward to growing up was that people would learn how to talk things out instead of taking sides and shunning others. Now, I wonder if we ever really grew up.
- Making idle threats: Once upon a time (or so legend says), people valued their word and did what they said with integrity. Idle threats are the weapons of a bully.
- Failing to face the fears: I’m old enough to recognize that change is hard and that concerns that an unknown “someone” is going to harm our children can play havoc in our heads. Our school still sets up conferences with parents, we still welcome volunteers, and we still want our parents to be involved. Somehow, it seems like all of this behavior could have been avoided if those with concerns had been willing to calmly talk things out instead of getting caught up in a web of gossip. They might have even discovered that our principal is a wonderful woman who is totally focused on giving her best to our children.
So, what’s the common sense take-away here?
- Face fears. One of my favorite writers, Dr. Marvin Marshall, just recently posted about asking reflective questions. I began using the technique years ago and learned that there is very little in life to actually fear. Everything else is a minor situation that will pass.
- Be proactive. Reacting takes away one of the most precious abilities humans have – the ability to think through problems. Taking the time to find constructive steps to deal with whatever is going on will leave a much smaller mess to clean up in the end.
- Take second- (and third- and fourth-) hand information with a grain of salt. There are times when just taking a moment to consider the probability of something being true will tell us all we need to know.
- Assume the best. Things are rarely as bad as our imaginations things they are.