Angry parent phone calls. Anyone who has ever worked in a school has had to deal with them and whilst they may become easier to field or manage over time, they never fail to leave their mark.
Today was a first for me.
I mean, I have spoken with parents who are unhappy or frustrated before - when emotions are running high it's bound to happen and when children are involved, well, watch out.
I usually find that the situation can be solved, though. It tends to be a case of misunderstanding or misinterpretation, and more often then not, the conversation ends with friendly chit-chat and shared laughter over the woes of adolescence.
But today's phone call was a doozy.
There I was, after school, tired from a long day, but determined to settle in and get some work done. The phone rang, I answered the call and then, happily, agreed to be put through to speak to a parent.
Maybe you know it, maybe you don't. That sinking feeling you get when, after having innocently and unknowingly answered the phone, you realize that you probably just should have stayed in bed this morning.
Well, that was me. 3:15 in the afternoon. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Holding the phone just away from my ear in order to accommodate the volume of the person shouting on the other end. [Seriously, I thought that only happened in cartoons.]
It is very difficult to have a constructive conversation in this kind of situation. The kind where you are being screamed at and constantly interrupted, where your character is being personally attacked and ill wishes are being made upon you and the place that you work. It is very difficult, in this type of situation, to think straight, to form competent thoughts and to communicate them in clear, concise sentences. It is very difficult to understand one another and very difficult to find a common ground.
I tried my hardest to address the concerns I was hearing, to explain the policies that motivated my decisions, and to promote a sense of mutual understanding, but when you are that irate (not me, the other person) there is little possibility of a harmonious ending.
In this case, the ending was a follow-up phone call made by my line manager, and the decision that all future communication would occur between the two of them. I do understand that this decision was made for my own safety - to keep me out of the line of fire, but to me, it doesn't feel like a solution at all.
I hate leaving things like this unresolved. I am very much a fan of meeting a problem head-on - discussing things calmly and rationally once we have all had a chance to calm down. I find that this usually ends in a stronger and more effective working relationship - something I would like to have with as many parents as possible, considering that I will be seeing them regularly for the next four years.
But I do understand the decision. I realize that it was made by someone with far more experience than I have and I trust in my colleagues to have my back.
I accept the things I cannot change and I relinquish control into the hands of those who seek to protect me (wait, hold on a minute, I'm just convincing myself).
Cheers to first times and new experiences and growing each and every damn day.