Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Power in Us All

A couple weeks ago a parent came into my room and spoke to me in a very disrespectful and insulting tone of voice. She was angry and would not let me speak. I spend every school day helping her daughter, yet I was being spoken to as the enemy. It was very upsetting, of course, even though this woman is known to have done this many times to other teachers. The following week we met as a team with her. There were five professionals, all people who knew and had worked with her daughter. She continued her onslaught of disrespectful tone and language. It left all of us red-faced and flustered, and probably ruined the day for most of us.
There is a quote by the renown child psychologist, Haim Ginott that I always keep on my bulletin board at work. As you read it replace "child" and "teacher" with person, and "in the classroom" with anywhere I go, and think about the fact that we all have the power to lift up or destroy someone's day.
"I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable of joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized."


Billy said...

Diane, this is very insightful and also very troubling. I ran across such people when teaching for 20 years, but I also run across them in life in general. People can spread negative energy around so easily. Other than prayer and meditation, I have had to enforce parameters as to what I will allow. But when you're a teacher ... it's part of your job to listen to these abusive people. When push comes to shove, I sit silent and say "I'm sorry you feel that way." Very difficult. Mental tai chi. Just duck. I've had very difficult ghostwriting clients and I've simply had to terminate some who couldn't be reasonable. As a novelist in this area once said in his fiction, society has the spiritual flu.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Diane, I'm sorry you were subjected to that. It can be very eroding to the spirit. It's not your fault though.

And thanks for reminding us all to use respect and kindness.

Susan's Snippets said...

Diane - is it not appropriate to set guidelines with the abuser something like "I will listen as long as you don't raise your voice" or "this meeting will continue only if all agree to speak to each other with respect."

Just a thought.

respect is sought