Bit of a crazy couple days it’s been. My first real flub-up at the school, and conversations with parents and all sorts of not-so-fun stuff. It all started last week when I had some trouble with the two boys running ahead of the group and decided to try to impress upon them that it wasn’t okay. I’ve already written about that, and about how I would have done it differently now that I’ve had a chance to think about it.

Apparently, the boys agreed that I should have done it differently, and complained to their moms. One of the moms then called Evan to complain. Evan didn’t really know the whole story, but he backed me up on the phone with the mom, saying that he didn’t know the whole story but he knows that I wouldn’t have had any malicious intent. He encouraged the moms to talk to me about it on the next Friday, since he was sure that would take care of the concerns. I don’t know if it was better or worse that he forgot to tell me about any of that, so I was caught fairly off guard when the two moms approached me on Friday morning. Fortunately, I had been debating about whether I wanted to have a conversation with the boys anyway, explaining to them where I was coming from and how I would have done things differently. I had already felt like my actions hadn’t come across the way they were intended, so I was somewhat prepared for a conversation, although not for one with the parents involved. But, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

So the two boy and the two moms and I had a quick conversation. I started by just going through the story of what happened, in order to make sure we’re all on the same page, and getting the boys buy-in in front of their moms that we were all on the same page. As soon as I explained the part where I thought they had run up the narrow dirt road with all the blind corners, the moms totally understood where I was coming from. One of the moms turned to her son and explained to him how us instructors have a lot of responsibility and they trust us to ensure the kids safety and some other things along those lines. So I felt like she was really getting where I was coming from.

From there, I explained how I would have done things differently, essentially the same things that I already wrote about last week. Both moms nodded their heads and agreed with that, and both seemed to agree that those would have been better choices. I specifically apologized to the one boy who had the reaction to the stinging nettle, telling him that I wouldn’t have done that on purpose. He accepted the apology and seemed cool. I asked both the boys if that made the situation better for them, or if there was anything else they needed to understand or needed to say. Neither of them had anything, and both kids seemed okay. The moms told them they could go. The moms and I talked for a couple more minutes, mostly about the bigger picture of the fact that this clan hasn’t had a consistent leader, and that I agree with them that that hindered the development of the group. Before we wrapped up, I asked them if we were cool, or if there was anything more we needed to talk about in order for them to feel good about the situation. They said they were cool.

So I left that feeling pretty good about having been up front with everyone, and everyone leaving the interaction understanding each other a little better. But then…

I went in to the office for an End of Year Wrap-Up Meeting yesterday, and learn that apparently there was still some lack of understanding somewhere, although I don’t know where it happened. Apparently, another parent, uninvolved in the original issue, brought it up with Evan last Friday. This mom said that one of the original moms said that I said (did you follow that?) that the punishment should have been even worse and that I was trying to find something even worse than nettles to take them through.

Huh.

I have no idea where that came from, but I’m really bummed that that’s the message that got through to someone, since it’s pretty much exactly the opposite of what I said. I felt pretty sure that the two moms and I were clear by the end of our talk, so I don’t know how it got twisted around so quickly. But Evan tells me about this in our final meeting. Evan was the only other instructor who knew most of the story, so I told the rest of the instructors the whole story that I’ve already written here. All of them were suppoortive and offered suggestions for how they might have done things differently, which mostly were the things that I have already suggested for myself. Sol said, “I just want to say that you are responding to this exaclty the way an instructor should. This is part of the job. You make mistakes, and then you scramble to fix them, and then you figure out how you can avoid ever having to do that again.” At some point, Evan used the word “mistake” also, and then tried to backpeddle “not that anyone necessarily made any mistakes” and I interrupted and said that I felt fine about owning this situation as a mistake.

From there we went on with the rest of the meeting (which was good). After the meeting, Evan passed all this information on to Laura, who is actually the Director (or whatever her title is) of the Vashon Youth School. So then I met with her, so she could be sure to hear my thoughts on the situation before she called the moms to talk them down. She said that she wanted to be able to call them and be my advocate, and she wanted to hear from me the specifics, so that she could call them with specific information, rather than calling them to say, “Well, I know that DeAnna is a really nice person.” I also told her that I was really open to hearing feedback from her, either before or after she talked to the parents. She said that the only feedback she really had for me was to not let this situation make me question my own talents or gifts. She said that if I was anything like her, I would be tempted to start thinking that maybe I’m not really cut out for this. She was pretty adamant that I shouldn’t think that, and that this is just one part of the job. Everyone has 20/20 hidsight, but when you’re right there in the thick of it, and you need to make a decision on the spur of the moment, everyone makes less than ideal choices sometimes. So that felt good, but the wole thing was still pretty stressful. I haven’t heard back from her yet how the conversation went with the moms.

And from there, I went right in to an interview with John for the Youth Instructor position. Yikes! John also re-iterated that this is just part of the job, and it had no effect on his decision for the hiring. I’m not sure how it could have no effect, since it’s an indicator of whether or not I’m capable of handling something that’s an inherent part of the job. But I hope that I handled the aftermath well enough that it made a good impression, or at least cancelled out the bad. Maybe that’s what he meant about it having no effect, maybe he meant that it was a net zero effect.

So I went through the interview well, I think, talking about everything from chaos and emergence theory, to women’s issues (and their lack of presence in WAS curriculum), to the fallacy of the binary gender system. I made it through the interview before the headache really kicked in, and I still have it now. Hopefully, it will go away when I hear from Laura that everything’s cool. At least, i hope that’s what I hear from her.

UPDATE: There’s more about this ongoing saga here

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