I hate delivering bad news. In fact I dread it. Though in my line of work it is a necessary evil. As a special education teacher I find myself in contact with parents more than most teachers. Like daily. This week alone I had to call a parent to tell them that their child proceeded to color his teeth black with a magic marker when he was out of my line of vision. But most of my phone calls are little things. Like little Johnny is eating toilet paper and glue sticks and has a real fondness for chalk. Or Mikey has taken to looking up all the adults skirts. Or Becky is eating her boogers. A lot. Like so much I’m wondering how she has a nose left. Even though my babies are special most of what they do is not outside of the normal kid realm.
But there is one thing I hate telling parents. Like hate-hate. Like stay up at night wondering how I’m going to break the news. You think I would be a pro at it by now. Kids typical and special alike do it. And I see more of it than one would expect teaching second grade.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Doe? Would you mind coming inside for a few minutes,” I ask a parent during dismissal.
The poor woman gives me the look. The what now look, that I see from every parent when I ask to speak to them in private. I know she isn’t going to want to hear what I have to say and trust me I don’t want to be the one to have to tell her. But one must soldier on in these cases.
“Your son is…. Um…” My ears start to burn.
Mrs. Doe looks at me with sympathy. “What is it? Trust me. Almost nothing you can say would shock me at this point.”
“Your son has found his willy wacker.” (For the record I did say the real word but so low the woman couldn’t hear me.)
“His thing.” My ears are on fire at this point. “He’s found his thing. And has taken to whipping it out at every opportunity. I guess the good news is that he doesn’t know what to do with it so he kind of just swats at it. But my point is that he CANNOT do that in school.”
The mother sighs, only, slightly mortified. “I was hoping he was only doing that at home.”
“Nope. He’s sharing his love with everybody.”
“How long can I expect this phase to last?”
“He’s a man, Mrs. Doe. It will probably be for the rest of his life.”
Thankfully she laughs and wraps her arm around me. “Thanks for telling me. Now how do we fix this?”
That problem I actually know how to fix. I have a file on my computer filled with information about this along with a bunch of other files most teachers wouldn’t dream of having.Like a nose picking file. And how to potty train children over five file. And a body odor file. But I digress. For me the only way to deliver unpleasant news is to plow through it.
On the reverse side I take in good and bad news the same way. I barely react at all. My poor parents have been disappointed many birthdays and Christmas Mornings. Because I barely reacted to my awesome presents at all. Although a child once surprised me with a plate of brownies and my face lit up like a the Fourth of July. (Go figure.)
So what about you? How do you deliver bad news. How do you receive it? Are you a reactive person. Are you easily surprised?