This week I reluctantly returned my car to a local bodyshop where it had been worked on earlier in the summer. There was a small, overlooked issue that if left as is had the potential to create a problem.
I took a friend, an advocate who understands cars and was the one who noticed the issue in the first place, and meekly entered the bodyshop office. About 30 minutes later, I exited with an appointment to fix the issue and a fair amount of guilt and frustration. All it takes is a defensive and argumentative employee to remind me why returning merchandise is downright painful.
My teacher inclinations have been highly sensitive since that experience. I want to help this employee learn, not pay. I wish he knew that he is the face of the bodyshop the minute a customer walks through the doors of the office. He has the power to affect the customer's opinion of the business for good or bad without hardly trying. That is a huge responsibility, and the bodyshop is counting on him to help convince people like me that I should come back for more and encourage my friends to do the same. Yet I'm not so sure I want to.
Oh but how many times has something similar happened in our schools and classrooms? When patrons, parents, and students walk through the doors of my school, I am the face of education. I have the same power to affect customer opinion as does the employee who belittled my concerns.
As I'm looking forward to a new year in the classroom, I feel responsible to keep the memory of this experience close to my heart and mind. I have a huge responsibility to represent my profession with excellence in all interactions with my "customers" but especially when they approach me with concerns. Whether they do so with meekness or agitation is immaterial. Regardless, I'm the face of education, and the way I react and treat them will shape their views of school, maybe forever. I'd better do all I can to convince them to come back for more.
P.S. If you're interested in my recently published book for teachers, look here for information about how to purchase it. I'd love to share it with you!