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Dear Rick & Rebecca: I have a question about student discipline. My neighbor’s son, Evan, is an 8th grader at my school. He was just recently sent down to my office by his science teacher for spitting on another student. I resolved the issue between Evan and the other boy whom he spat on, resulting in a one day in-school suspension for Evan. When I called Evan’s mom, I felt really uncomfortable and struggled to find the right words. I know I have to do my job no matter who the student or who the parent. Just wondering what your thoughts are about this? –Uncomfortable Assistant Principal
Dear Uncomfortable Assistant Principal
Ahh, yes, the spitter and the spittee. We have experienced those types of situations before, both as educators and as students growing up (Rebecca was never a spitter, though). There are times when things get a little strange, when you have to make that tough phone call or have that tough discussion. Writing a script for a phone call introduction to your neighbor would most likely sound manufactured, so we won’t recommend you getting a teleprompter. What we always tell school leaders, however, is that when you speak from the heart with sincerity, your audience becomes blurry. What we mean by this is that when you really think about helping students learn and grow in amazing ways—even during the gross, salivating times, everyone will know that you are there for students, first, no matter who they are. A great way to open any tough conversation with a parent is by simply saying, “I’m calling you because I need your help” or “This is a tough call to have to make to you, so bear with me if I stumble a bit.” Your personable communication will shine through and getting parents on board will feel more natural for you. The other option is that if something feels really uncomfortable or unbearable, tag team with your principal; simply let him or her know why you need help even if discipline is supposed to be your responsibility. Your principal will most likely step up to the plate and help you. Again, the key to resolving the issue respectfully is to be as sincere as possible. Remember, your language is a powerful tool.
Thanks for writing!
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