In 3 Principles to Aid Healthy Communication in a Christian School we stressed the need to bring concerns and share needed feedback with those of us who serve you at Cary Christian School.
How do we bring concerns and feedback in a manner that leads to success?
Step 1: Seek to Understand as to be Understood
As a general goal start with this in mind: I am going bring my concern forward with as much desire to understand as to be understood. A perfect opening for addressing concerns with anyone might be the words “help me understand.” It has been said that when it comes to addressing concerns in our schools we can either be a lamp or a blow torch. A blow torch gives off light, but scorches everything in its path (“I’m going to set you straight!”). To be a lamp, begin by seeking clarification. It is always too soon to jump to conclusions! Until we talk to people, it is seldom safe to talk about them or assume ill of them. There is almost always “one more thing” we don’t know about the person or situation, one insight or fact that if we knew it would help us understand their behavior or decision. “I’m eager to hear what you have to say.” We may still not agree with what they did, but at least we understand why they did it.
We are simply talking about going to our brother or sister driven by the motive of Christian love, determined to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), determined to not be driven by anger, to display more light than heat, more grace than anger, perhaps reconciliation rather than revenge. A terrific pre-meeting practice is to read I Corinthians 13 with the face of the other person planted in your mind.
In short, in this first step we are “doing to others what we would have done to us”: giving the benefit of the doubt while seeking to understand motives and actions, as opposed to the worlds way of conflict resolution, guns blazing, fighting for “my rights.”
Step 2: Seek Common Ground
Having sincerely and lovingly asked, “help me understand why….?” We are now ready for step two: seek “common ground.” It is important, and of tremendous value, to affirm, in general, what the teacher is trying to do. Before jumping right into your concerns, express appreciation, for example, that the teacher is trying to maintain the best possible, most orderly environment for everyone’s learning before you express your concern for how they corrected your child.
Now, how can we best express the actual concern? With this question, “have you considered…?” Don’t assume the teacher will oppose you. Explain your concern in a way that assumes the teacher may see your point, may consider something perhaps they had not before considered. “I see what you were trying to accomplish, and I appreciate your commitment to order for effective learning, but have you considered that perhaps in this case this approach to correction might escalate rather than diffuse the situation? Here is what I mean….”
Step 3: Seek Ways to Support from Home
If it fits the situation, end by asking “what can I do to better support your teaching in my home?” Ask for their advice and feedback in how you might help them in the challenging work they do every day. Then speak words of encouragement and gratitude for their service.
Finally, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Scheduled meetings are usually the most effective. “Popping in” at the end of a busy teaching day is seldom ideal timing. A scheduled meeting ensures the privacy that is needed for good dialogue. If you send a request via email, give the teacher a day or so to respond. —They are in the classroom all day and may need some time to follow-up with you.
- Begin with prayer. If, perchance, the teacher does not offer to begin with prayer, you may. “The prayers of the righteous avail much.” (James 5:16)
- Sometimes understanding and/or reconciliation does not occur in a first meeting. In such a situation, follow through with your concern to the next appropriate level of school authority.