Challenging Conversations: An Opportunity, Not a Burden

The happenings of the world are causing increased anxiety in so many of us. Schools are creating plans, backup plans, and backup plans for those backup plans. The landscape of education has changed and so have the rhythms of the typical communication flow. Educators and administrators are overwhelmed with emails, texts, and zoom meetings in addition to all their regular daily work. Educators and leaders need to be more responsive, thoughtful, and empathic than ever before and simultaneously manage heightened communication both in volume, intensity, and urgency than ever. As remote learning, hybrid models, and all the procedures involved are new to families and schools, we all are experiencing shifting expectations and managing a lot of disappointment. We are having challenging conversations.

Challenging conversations in schools have many components: the emotions, the intentions, the actual matter to be discussed, the existing relationship amongst the people and of course the child at the center of the discussion. At the core of every communication with a family is the relationship that you have with the family. When entering a possibly challenging conversation, it is wise to consider:

What is my relationship with this family?

How do I preserve my self respect/dignity/integrity in this communication?

What is my objective in this conversation?

The relationship is key to the conversation. The conversation is key to the relationship. If you have yet to build a relationship with the family/student/faculty/staff member you are communicating with, it is vital to consider this as you deliver challenging information. How can you use this time to build a relationship? It is essential to view these conversations as opportunities and not as burdens. 

Consider your intentions. What is your goal? Stay focused and clear. No matter how seemingly complicated the situation, at the center you both want the same thing: to support the child at the center of the conversation. When you are clear about your intentions and keep student growth at the core, you will have a better chance of sustaining your integrity and self respect. 

No matter how the conversation ends, follow up with an email. The email should be clear and brief; validating feelings and stating actions for moving forward. This follow up is good documentation of the conversation and assures that you all heard the same things. It also lays out an action plan for future work. 

Remember, we all want the same thing: to support the growth of our children and students. Every communication is an opportunity to be seen, heard, and known. Seize the opportunity!