Zachary J Baehr

When a lack of concerns is not necessarily what you want

A healthy school climate of trust is not the absence of dissent; it is the respect in which it is asked for, given, and received.

How many times have you listened to the radio when during a request-a-song hour? How many times did you actually call in? In the radio business, DJs know that three callers does not mean three listeners.

Likewise, the quantity of ‘concerned parent’ emails does not equal the number of concerned parents in your school community.

There are a few possible reasons people won’t contact your with concerns:

– They don’t know you: Do people know who you are and what you do? Do you actively introduce yourself at events, and make yourself visible before and after school? Do you ask people who visit your school how things are going?

– They don’t know how to reach you: Is your email easy to find on your school website, or do you send everyone to an impersonal contact form? Are you available to meet in person, even if the time isn’t perfect for you? Do you send out regular survey on specific topics, or do you just tell people to reach out when they have concerns?

– They have lost trust in you: Do you listen to learn? Do you reply to emails with one short sentence, or without addressing all the topics? Do you reply at all, or in a timely manner? Do you seek out information from all people, including the quiet ones? Do you share with your staff and your parents a brief list of action items (based on mutually agreeable concerns and suggestions) you are undertaking so people know you are listening and responding with action?

– They don’t think it will do any good: Have you been given suggestions that you didn’t follow up on, or said you would take action but failed to do so? Do you always follow the advice of the loudest few parents? Do you disagree with some parents and ignore them? Does your parent-school committee (you have one, right?) have parents from the same social circles, or do you have a wide representation of genders, grades, backgrounds, economic status?

A healthy school climate of trust is not the absence of dissent; it is the respect in which it is asked for, given and received.

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