The following blog was contributed by Jodee Blanco, New York Times best-selling author and consultant.
It’s been a meaningful and extraordinary year. While we’ve been tested in ways that none of us, even at our most imaginative, could have ever anticipated, I’ve also seen the Holy Spirit at work in our Catholic schools more this year than any other.
Over the last two decades, I’ve had the honor of meeting many of you, either at convention, or because I visited your schools to do anti-bullying work. I’m always moved and inspired by how much you give of yourselves every day and the sacrifices you make for your students.
I know there were moments this year that that sacrifice seemed larger, yet you still kept going, guided by a light within that nothing could extinguish. I saw The Holy Spirit in action at every school that I visited. I saw it in the courage of superintendents who made tough decisions despite feeling like no matter what they did someone wouldn’t be happy; in the patience of principals who found joy in every day even when they were being pummeled by divisiveness in their communities. I saw it in the sense of humor of teachers who rather than giving into frustration, hunkered down and found new ways to connect with students. I saw it in the smiles of beleaguered, over-worked office secretaries who never lost their warmth or compassion, in the resolve of school nurses and counselors who refused to let anything, not even a pandemic, get in the way of their ability to serve. I saw The Holy Spirit smiling through all of you even when your hearts were heavy and I want to thank you for reminding me and everyone whose lives you touch, that with faith, we got this.
One of my greatest privileges when I’m on the road is being able to listen to your stories and learn about you, your schools and your needs. Almost all of you have had challenges with parents, and I thought this might be a good time, as we begin reflecting during the holiest of holidays, to offer some insights.
- When A Person Is Scared, They Act Out.
If you can tell yourself that the parent who keeps testing your patience is driven by fear, a feeling of a lack of control and that it isn’t personal, it will help you to have compassion for them, the first and most important step in breaking down barriers.
- Expectation Management Is Important for Building Trust.
To work effectively in partnership with a parent, everyone needs to be on the same page about communication and follow-up. For example, if you’ve come up with a plan of action together, discuss and agree upon a timeline for the implementation and be specific about what you expect of each other including how often you’ll update one another on progress and how. Then, document it in a concise memo that you can both work from moving forward. It’s best to bullet the action items and clearly indicate who’s doing what. The updates can be done a number of ways, but I think the most efficient is to simply add them to the original memo and highlight and date each new entry. The documentation process will make the parent feel more in control and provide a guidepost for you and them.
- What To Do If a Parent or Group of Parents Are Using Social Media Platforms in Ways That Are Hurtful or Unproductive.
Do not engage the parent publicly online as this is only likely to accelerate the issue. Instead, message them privately, acknowledge that you hear how upset they are, and suggest talking things through over the phone or in person/via Zoom. When you do have that conversation, don’t interrupt or become defensive. Listen and then share your honest thoughts. Often, just letting someone talk and feel heard will dissipate enough of the tension to redirect the dialogue in a more positive direction.
- The Ongoing Importance of Self-Care.
Be good to yourself. Reward yourself. Make time for the things that bring you joy and refresh and rejuvenate your spirit. The more you treat yourself with patience, compassion and love, the more you’ll have to give at school. Self-care isn’t an indulgence; it’s an act of wisdom.
About the Author
Jodee Blanco is the author of the seminal New York Times bestseller Please Stop Laughing at Me and anti-bullying’s first voice. Dioceses turn to her regularly for professional development and to implement her anti-bullying program in their schools. Jodee is the author of a series of books for the NCEA and a content provider for The Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University in the areas of anti-bullying and governance. She also consults for schools and dioceses on enlightened parent communication practices and Catholic values-based crisis management. For more information, please visit: https://www.jodeeblanco.com/catholic-schools/.
Jodee’s Publications with NCEA: