Well, today is a tough day for a Thumbs Up Thursday. Actually, it started out and remained spectacular for most of the day (these are all my thumbs up). I was able to sleep past 5 a.m. for the first time since the time change. I had my Mom’s group this morning and it was wonderful to spend a couple of hours talking to other moms about things that matter to us as moms and we even made these cool necklaces that I love. My class had an exam in it and a student showed up late with their son because of an emergency childcare situation and I thought I was being helpful by letting her stay to take the exam and keeping the two year old entertained by writing on the white board (he was incredibly quiet for a 2 year old – no way my daughter could have done that) and using sticky notes all over the walls and cabinets. She finished the exam just about the time he was running out of quiet. I felt good about being accommodating in what I’m sure was a tough situation for her. Then we had an awesome session in the Leadership Institute that I am doing as a Fellow this semester – it was on healthy balance in our lives and it really made me aware of how much I lack it…almost all of it. But, it was just a great session that made me realize some changes I want to make in my life and WHY I want to make them. And my husband was going to be home when I got home, which I viewed as a good thing since he’s been gone for almost all of the past two weeks. And then I got home…
First thing when I walked in, all seemed fine. My daughter was painting, the babysitter said she had played outside for a long time, my husband was home…we all chatted for a bit and the babysitter left. First question from my husband was, “What is that collection notice?” referring to a paper on the table. I looked and told him it was for a ticket. “What ticket?” I said, “a parking ticket I need to pay.” Nothing in response, but a look of slight disdain. So, I told my daughter she needed to get ready for a bath and poured myself a glass of tea. My daughter wanted to show my husband the 12 passenger van I had rented for our team’s trip to the airport tomorrow, so they go out and I ask him to bring in the car seat and the pile of her stuff from the front seat. He walks out and second thing out of his mouth to me is, “Why did you park it across the street?” I don’t respond. “Why would you do that?” with more impatience. Now, keep in mind, we live on a loop and the van was parked immediately across from us at the corner – not a long walk. There was a space in front of our house, but the van is long and I was afraid it would hang out too far into the actual road area of the loop, so I parked where I felt it was safest. He tells me to give him the keys that he will move it after hearing my explanation – as if my reasoning was ridiculous and I had parked over there just to make him walk an extra 15 steps…next, the bath starts and my daughter gets in and I ask if he has eaten and he says no, but he isn’t hungry. So, I start making some frozen burritos and he says, “What is this thing you do on Thursday nights?” in a really kind of annoyed tone. So, I told him it is a leadership institute and I’m doing it as a fellow. And he says, “are you getting paid?” again, with what I would consider disdain as the tone. I said no. Again, no response other than that kind of annoyed glance. Then he says, “So, she (referring to my daughter) told me she was up in the neighbor kid’s bedroom.” I had heard the sitter say they were playing together quite a bit, I’ve met his parents and they seem nice, the sitter told me yesterday they played over here for a while together (he is also 4 years old and the sitter said he was very nice while over here) and I figured they had run up to get something out of his bedroom or the sitter would have said something about it (if they had played over there for an extended period of time). So, I didn’t really react other than to say, “oh really?” and he says, “yeah, any thoughts on what to do about that?” which is his way of saying that I should do something about it, whether I feel like there is something to be done or not.
So, by this time, I am feeling pretty sorry for myself (how about a “how was your day?” or “what can I do for you since I’ve been gone for a week?” or “wow, you’re a fellow? that’s cool. what do you do in this institute?” But, no…none of that. Just this kind of barrage of questions for which I obviously have no acceptable answers). I really had decided that I wanted to spend some time with him going through this values exercise we did at the leadership institute tonight because I thought it would help us to be closer, figure some things out about our schedules, etc. But, after the reception, I just shut down. Well, first I got angry and then sad and then I shut down.
Well, a little while later, I checked my email and lo and behold, there was an email from my boss at my second job with a forwarded email from her boss about how two people had “seen a child in my classroom” tonight and “could tell I was uncomfortable when I saw that they had noticed” (which was not true) and that I should be informed of the “liability issues” of bringing a child to the classroom. I did see the two people referred to – they were working in a storage room between my classroom and another and the little boy was looking at them through the glass in the door. The guy seemed nice, he smiled and I smiled back and went back to the chair I had been sitting in while the boy stood there and watched them work for a minute or two. That was it. Soon, they were gone and I thought nothing of it. So, I had to type a lengthy response explaining the situation and how I thought I was being accommodating to a student in distress, etc., etc. I felt like someone who didn’t know who I was and had made a total assumption had sort of “tattled” on me as well (the people in the storage room who had sent the email). This is my first semester at this college and it is a two-year college where many students are struggling with work and family obligations and I thought one of the goals was to help them be successful when we could. I thought this was one of those opportunities. But, I guess it wasn’t. And instead of someone saying something to ME about it, they looked up my name online (which means they could have emailed me about it directly since I’m in the system) and went to the Dean instead. Kind of frustrating and disappointing…on many levels. I feel like a lot of institutions talk a good talk about being accommodating but when it comes down to it, they are the same as anywhere else. If you have a family, good luck making it work without a rather extensive support system. Just my two cents. I was unaware of the liability issues, the child was perfectly behaved while his mom took the exam and they were only there for just over a half hour, so it didn’t seem damaging to anyone. He was not doing anything unsafe. And he was very quiet. But, I understand liability issues and would not do it again, but I would rather the Dean be introduced to my name in a more productive way.
So…as if all that wasn’t enough, I get yet another email of complaint. It seems that a student from my team who volunteered at an event last week was complained about by another instructor’s students – giving poor non-verbals and possibly falling asleep during the debates. They had told their instructor and then sent her pictures of the student in a position that could have been sleeping. The message and pictures were forwarded to me by the person who is in charge of the event. There was nothing written in the email – just the forwarded message. This is the second semester I’ve received complaints about students from the team who were volunteering to watch debates. Both instances have been students who were first-semester members of the team. Both instances have been situations where they probably did something less-than-professional (they are students after all – and also have been lower-level students) but also probably were not as bad as being described. This past instance in one that bothers me in a number of ways though. First of all, what is it with people and using their cell phones to record anything they think is less than acceptable? Is it really necessary for you to take a picture of someone who puts their head down on a desk to “prove” they are sleeping (which by the way, could have happened between debates – there were three of them in the room) or could have been a non-verbal in reaction to a less-than-stellar performance by the students debating (two of my students debated in that room and said she was excited about their affirmative case and gave them good feedback but they also said that two prior students seemed totally unprepared and somewhat disinterested – like one of them texted during the debate) or could have been anything really. But, the fact that they took a picture without telling the person they took a picture of that they were doing so/had done so and then gave that picture to an instructor who then forwarded it to another instructor who then forwarded it to me seems problematic. I guess I mostly err on the side of giving people, especially students, the benefit of the doubt. If they had come to me, I would have listened to the complaint, I would have asked some questions about the incident (like how long was she supposedly sleeping? what was happening in the room while she was supposedly sleeping? etc.) and then I would have told them I would talk to the student. If they offered a picture, I probably would have said that I didn’t need a picture and they probably should not be taking pictures of others and offering to share them without permission. I get the whole “whistle-blowing” aspect of it, but this was a student…a volunteer…and the people reporting it were also students…not exactly the federal crime that requires visual proof.
I don’t know…I guess I’m just feeling a little disenchanted tonight. I was feeling decently about my life, the human race, and my jobs earlier today. Now, I’m back to feeling disappointed and slightly disgusted with my life, the human race and my jobs. I start to feel like there is no room to make mistakes anymore without people reporting you to the highest authority possible and trying to make it seem like it is something worthy of punishment instead of teaching or informing. That to me is depressing. I try to teach my students that most people have good intentions, even if it sometimes comes out the wrong way. How would all of our lives change if everyone approached things with that assumption. That everyone has good intentions…would we all be abused and taken advantage of constantly or would we see better things in the world, learn more and do better?
What do you think? Is it better to assume the worst and protect yourself and others by being sure to report all bad behavior to the authorities or is it better to assume good intentions and simply approach the situation with love and learning in mind. Approach the person directly and say, “Hey…I see you had a child in your classroom tonight. Was that your child or a student’s? Did you know that there are some liability issues with that? Maybe next time that happens, you can advise the student to do X.” Or, when a student reports on some other student’s behavior at an event say, “Hey, that was pretty poor communication on her part wasn’t it? What would you do to make sure you aren’t perceived that way in the future? We’ll suggest that to her when we talk to her next. Was there anything she did well while she was there?” Maybe I am just a crazy optimist who will constantly be disappointed in life.
So, so, so tired. I have a flight out at 10 a.m. tomorrow but our airport is 1.5 hours away, so I have to leave at 6:45 a.m. I have not packed yet. I don’t want to pack tonight, so I guess I will get up early and do it in the morning. Sigh…
This weekend, I am going to commit myself to trying to not only SEE the good in people, but to point it out to others. I don’t see enough of that, so in response, I’m going to try to highlight the GOOD things people do. Maybe that will improve my outlook on life. Would love to hear others’ thoughts on this!