Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On being an encourager's encourager

If you've been coming here for a while, you'll know that I am committed to being an encourager, enabler, empowerer. It's why I do what I do.

You will also know that I am a complete tigress when it comes to my kids. My view is that, until they are in a position to fight their own battles, their parents are the bottom line, the people on whom they must be able to depend to fight their corner for them. We have fought our kids' corner against ludicrous odds. Sometimes we have won. Sometimes we have lost spectacularly.

The point is that I will take on anyone or anything when it comes to my boys. My husband is nowhere near as combative as I am, but he backs me to the hilt when I take on an opponent he believes to be in the wrong. I play offence. He plays defence. It works. There was even an occasion when he needed me to go to bat for him, when he was in hospital and a series of administrative inefficiencies meant that he was not being discharged. I got him out within two hours. You may not be able to fight city hall, but the day may well come when I die trying! Many people have vowed that the day they need someone to fight their corner, they will make a beeline for me.

Maybe I should have been a civil rights activist or something ;o)

Of course, the boys have to learn to assume the mantel themselves, so, as they grow older, we encourage them to handle more and more on their own. We also accept support and input from other quarters.

And there's a flip side to all of this, which is why I am posting about this today. If you're prepared to challenge any and everyone to a duel when they do your kids wrong, you have got to prepared to make mention of the positive input you get, too.

My beleaguered elder son feels he has one solitary ally at school in the form of one of his maths teachers. Ms Verity. I use her real name simply because I find it so touchingly apt. Ms Truth. She sees exactly what is going on. She is not blinded by the antics of his tormentors. She speaks encouragement into his life all the time. She provides him with targeted worksheets that address his particular weaknesses in the subject. She builds him up at every opportunity.

When the pastoral teacher tried to intervene in the victimisation, things got worse. His mentor nods and says he understands but, according to my son, he clearly doesn't. He has implored me not to phone the man, predicting that I will be fobbed off with platitudes. So it's just us and Ms Verity.

Yesterday, I phoned to thank her for being such a stalwart. We had a wonderful heart to heart. She asked what else she could do, but we decided that to do any more would be to make it obvious that she was doing something. That would probably be no good thing. We discussed potential courses of action. We discussed the primary tormentor's tactics and the best way for my son to deal with her.

So there a few things here: first of all , there is a partnership between school and home - open, frank communication about our shared interest in a hurting young man. Second, there is a tailored approach based on the specifics of the situation. Instead of following the step by step protocol in the manner of the failed attempts by the pastoral support teacher. Third, and most importantly, there is a teacher who is going the extra mile... and a parent who is prepared to commend her for it.

There are real human beings involved in this story. Each of whom has expectations, quirks, strengths and weaknesses. A procedural approach can only go so far before one of those factors causes it to fall apart.

Trying to do things by the book has its limits. I am deeply grateful that Ms Verity has the courage to look past the book, see the human beings involved, and address the situation based on that.

I hope that my phone call yesterday has been encouragement to her to keep on keeping on.

Who will you encourage today?


Stephen Downes said...

> Who will you encourage today?

You. Keep up the good work.

The upsycho said...

@Downes Aw, Stephen. I am genuinely touched. Thank you!